KOTA KINABALU: A sick green sea turtle was rushed to the “turtle clinic” on Gaya Island near here today, after making a 215km trip by taxi from Simpang Mengayau in Kudat.
On hand to meet the turtle here was Sabah Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) manager Dr Sen Nathan and his team.
They immediately transferred the turtle onto a waiting speedboat to be brought to the YTL Gaya Island Resort marine centre.
According to Sen, he was contacted by the Kudat Turtle Conservation Society at 8pm last night stating that the turtle had been seen floating at Simpang Mengayau.
It was later decided that the turtle should be brought to the turtle centre in Gaya Island for examination.
The resort owners agreed among themselves to foot the RM350 taxi fare to send the turtle to Kota Kinabalu.
The turtle set off from Simpang Mengayau to Kota Kinabalu, accompanied by an honorary wildlife warden at around 9am and arrived in the city at 12.30pm.
The turtle, estimated to be about 18 years old and weighing 19kg, looked weak and was diagnosed to be moderately dehydrated.
“It seems to be suffering from a floater syndrome due to gas accumulation in the abdomen area. It was unable to dive when put inside the saltwater tank at the turtle centre.
“We are stabilising and feeding it now. We will put it into a fresh water tank to help with the dehydration,” he said.
Sen said the journey may have caused some stress to the turtle and medical intervention to reduce the gas accumulation will only be done tomorrow, after it has rested for at least a night.
Unfortunately, he said the rate of deaths among turtles with the floater syndrome is high.
Scott Mayback, marine biologist at the marine centre, said the turtle may have been suffering from the floater syndrome for at least a month, judging by the formation of barnacles on its flippers and algae on its shell.
He said turtles with this condition will lose their ability to dive over time and will only be able to float.
“This condition can last three months before they starve to death or, most likely, are hit by boats at sea,” he said.
Mayback said the turtle’s chances of survival are below 50% at the moment because of its critical condition.
“But it seems to have a strong will to survive. We must act fast or that chance will be lost. Unfortunately, even if we do everything right, in some cases, it is too late.
“The intestinal tract may be jammed up, like what we have seen in the past.
“It is just a sad condition of our oceans now and this is happening to our turtles. They have been around for 250 million years but they can be gone easily in our lifetime. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen.”
The green sea turtle is classified as an endangered species and is protected in Sabah.