Salvaging a Dead Sea Turtle at Changi Beach
By Sankar Ananthanarayanan, 28th May 2015;
[Salvaging a carcass is typically a disheartening affair, as we prefer to see our biodiversity alive. But it is always good to have some hope that the specimen we pick up would be able to contribute to science or allow others to learn more about our biodiversity. Here, Sankar A, our Toddycats SG50 intern, recounts his experience on a carcass salvage operation. – Marcus Chua]
I was just about to go home from work on 14 May 2015, when I saw a message on my phone from Marcus to the Toddycats, “Anyone on campus would like to head down with me for a carcass salvage?” Intrigued, I replied that I was free and could help out. 20 minutes later, I was climbing into a van heading towards Changi. I expected the carcass to be a roadkill, so it was a bit of a shock when Marcus told me that it was actually a Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). It was thought to have been hit by the propeller of a boat and had been split across its shell. NParks had kindly brought the carcass ashore and had kept it aside for the Museum to collect it.
We drove over to Changi Beach Carpark 6, stopping only to pick up the taxidermists. We met Ruth Tan, NParks manager of coastal parks, who facilitated the salvage process and showed us where the carcass was held. After donning the necessary PPE (vinyl gloves and N95 mask), we carried the carcass over to a designated area, where the taxidermists could work. Despite the masks, the smell was pretty bad. The first thing we did was to take measurements and “crime scene” photos for record purposes. The turtle was large, with a carapace length of about 0.8 m. Marcus also ascertained that the turtle was a female, based on the short tail length. We took tissue samples from the carcass for cryogenic preservation. Since I had never taken a tissue sample before, Marcus showed me a couple of examples before allowing me to do one.