Fig. 1. Carcass of a Green Turtle (in foreground) floating at Selat Pandan.
Fig. 2. Ventral view of Green Turtle carcass showing: a) single claw on front flipper, b) spilt guts, and c) crack line on the plastron.
Photographs by Tan Yee Keat

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) carcass showing sign of boat strike at Selat Pandan

Location, date and time: Singapore Strait, Selat Pandan off Jurong Island; 9 June 2015; 1150 hrs.

Observation: A carcass of a marine turtle, with estimated plastron length of between 50 and 60 cm, was found floating at sea along a hectic shipping lane (Fig. 1). It had spilt guts (Fig. 2b) and a crack line on the plastron (Fig. 2c).

Remarks: The single claw on both front flippers (Fig. 2a) and relatively small blunt head identify the carcass as a Chelonia mydas (see Gomez & Miclat, 2001). Although quite commonly sighted around the islands in the Singapore Strait (Tan, 2010), the green turtle is regarded as a ‘critically endangered’ species in Singapore (Lim et al., 2008).

The featured turtle seems to have been dead for at least two days. The large crack line on the animal’s plastron suggests that it was cut by a boat propeller, and had possibly succumbed from the injury. Compared to fast-swimming cetaceans, marine turtles and Dugongs tend to be slower in their movements, and appear to be more vulnerable to morbidity and mortality by boat strike (Davenport & Davenport, 2006). The adoption of ‘Go-Slow’ or speed restriction zones (less than 4 km h-1 according to Hazel et al., 2007) may be necessary to mitigate collision risks in areas where turtles tend to frequent, such as over seagrass beds, their foraging habitat. This measure is imperative to protect this endangered animal in Singapore’s marine environment, which is one of the world’s busiest ports (Chou, 2008).

References:

  • Chou L. M., 2008. Nature and sustainability of the marine environment. In: Wong T. C. et al. (eds.). Spatial Planning for a Sustainable Singapore. 10: 169-182.
  • Davenport, J. & J. L. Davenport, 2006. The impact of tourism and personal leisure transport on coastal environments: a review. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 67: 280-292.
  • Gomez, E. & E. F. B. Miclat, 2001. Sea turtles. In: Carpenter, K. E. & V. H. Niem (eds.). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 6. Bony Fishes part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), estuarine crocodiles, sea turtles, sea snakes and marine mammals. Rome, FAO. pp. 3973-3986.
  • Hazel, J., I. R. Lawler, H. March & S. Robson, 2007. Vessel speed increases collision risk for the Green Turtle Chelonia mydas. Endangered Species Research. 3: 105-113.
  • Lim, K. K. P., N. Baker, R. Teo & T. M. Leong, 2008. Reptiles. In: Davison, G. W. H., P. K. L. Ng & H. C. Ho (eds.). The Singapore Red Data Book. Threatened Plants & Animals of Singapore. Second edition. Nature
    Society (Singapore). pp. 160-176.
  • Tan, R., 2010. Sea turtles. Wild Shores of Singapore.
    http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/vertebrates/reptilia/seaturtle.htm [accessed on 9 December 2015].

Source: Singapore Biodiversity Records 2015: 212-213

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