Hawksbill turtles and their eggs are discovered at East Coast Park

Members of the public and National Park Board (NParks) helped Hawksbill turtle hatchlings find their way back to sea, and relocated 141 freshly-laid eggs to a safer location.
By Sheryl Lau
Published on Friday, 25 August 2017

There have been several sightings of Hawksbill turtles in the past month at East Coast Park. Last Wednesday evening (16 August), a couple spotted 32 Hawksbill baby turtle hatchlings trying to find their way back to the sea. A week later, a pregnant turtle came ashore to look for a suitable nesting area and laid 141 eggs.

While it is rare to catch the hatching in action, the Hawksbill and green turtles are actually native to Singapore’s waters. Hawksbills mate every two to three years and during the nesting season, they will dig a pit for their eggs and cover it up with sand. Leaving her eggs buried, the female turtle will return to sea while her eggs will hatch in about two months.

When the eggs hatch, the hatchlings instinctively navigate their way back to sea with the help of the brightest light. Typically, in the absence of artificial light, this would be the view of the night sky over the sea. However, when the 32 baby Hawksbill turtles were found at East Coast Park, it was reported that they could not find their way back to sea due to the bright streetlights that distracted them. “We figured they were a bit lost because they kept circling,” said Mr Chia, a 29-year-old salesman who spotted the sea turtles with his wife. But with the help of the NParks staff, they transported them to a much suitable location where they were guided back to sea around 1am.

These turtles are still critically endangered due to the array of poachers in the market where they are killed for their flesh and shell, which are sold for human consumption. Not only that, their eggs are still consumed around the world which makes these turtles extremely vulnerable. The original nest where the pregnant Hawksbill turtle laid her eggs was labelled as a high-risk area and NParks moved them to a location with less foot traffic and low light pollution.

Dr Lena Chan, group director at the National Biodiversity Centre, advised: "Touching the turtle may scare or provoke it. Similarly, one should not handle the eggs as that might damage them."

Members of the public should keep a distance and contact the NParks helpline (1800-471-7300) immediately if turtles or their eggs are spotted in Singapore.