Rescued sea turtles Louie and Hawke return to the wild

Back in September 2015, a palm-size Green Sea Turtle hatchling was found in a drain by a member of the public, and subsequently handed over to S.E.A. Aquarium by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Six months later in March 2016, a male Hawksbill Turtle in poor physical condition arrived at the aquarium.

Louie was only one week old when it arrived at S.E.A. Aquarium on 28 September 2015. When Hawke first joined us on 24 March 2016, he had a pyramided carapace due to lack of proper nutrition and care.

A team of S.E.A. Aquarium aquarists played the role of foster parents to these sea turtles – feeding them, interacting with them and closely monitoring their development.

Their efforts paid off.

After two years of specialised care and rehabilitation, Louie and Hawke finally returned to the wild on 19 June 2018, with support and assistance from the National Parks Board (NParks). In the months leading up to this eventful day, the team prepared the turtles to adapt to life in the open ocean.

The turtles were fed a diet of squids and prawns – prey which they can find in the open ocean. Instead of using the target feeding method, aquarists switched to the broadcast feeding method where food was randomly thrown into the water. This was to get them used to searching for their own food in the wild.
Moving Louie to the weighing station.
Aquarist Kenneth Kwang (left) and Assistant Curator Jeremiah Foo checked the weight of both turtles. Louie weighed 21.5kg (compared to just 20g when it first arrived). Hawke weighed 23kg, a far cry from the 800g young turtle that he was when he first came.
S.E.A. Aquarium’s animal health team also conducted a thorough veterinary examination which included a full blood profile and length measurement – all of which indicated they were healthy and suitable for release. Louie is currently about 61cm in length while Hawke measures about 59cm.
Dr Alfonso Lopez Aguilar, Director of Animal Health & Research, gave both turtles a thorough physical examination.
Both turtles were tagged and microchipped so they can be identified should they return to Singapore’s shores in the future. Both species are native to Singapore. The green sea turtle is listed as “Endangered” while the hawksbill turtle is listed as “Critically Endangered” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

While their release is bittersweet for the aquarists, they are happy to see the turtles return to their natural habitats.

19 June 2018. Transferring the turtles onto the boat.
Preparing Hawke for his release to the waters of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park.

10.50am. Goodbye and good luck Hawke!
Louie’s turn to return to the ocean.
It was released to the waters of Pulau Semakau at about 12.05pm. Both locations were chosen in consultation with NParks.
Louie swam off immediately after its release. It was later spotted swimming near the boat with its head out of the water, as though bidding farewell to its caretakers.

Here’s a lookback at their time in S.E.A. Aquarium and their release.

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