Project Orion III - Rovering with Turtles is the 5th Scouts of the World Award (SWA) Voluntary Service Project of the SWA Singapore Base.

The 3rd instalment of this project will be led by 9 Singapore Rovers. They will return to Setiu
, a main district in Terengganu, Malaysia where previous instalments of Project Orion were featured.

The primary aim of this project would be the conservation of sea turtles. In addition, the team of 9 will also be involved in Mangrove Replanting, Repair Work for the Village and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature - Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) who has an Information Centre at Seitu, as well as educating the youths about Conversation efforts and the English Language from the 16th to 30th June 2011. The team will also take charge of the construction and installations of signboards at hatchery and mangrove reforestation sites.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Rehabilitated turtles swim free

Rehabilitated turtles swim free

Just after 9am on Tuesday 29 November, two boats filled with Earthwatch volunteers from Amcor and scientist Dr Kathy Townsend headed out to deep water off North Stradbroke Island to release four healthy, rehabilitated turtles back into the open ocean.The loggerhead and three green turtles were all found back in August 2011 and were experiencing a range of issues, causing them to lose weight and be in very poor condition. Some of the turtles were found floating and were unable to dive for food which is often associated with marine rubbish inside the turtles gut, which is the current focus of the Turtles in Trouble research project. The biggest turtle – the Loggerhead known as Blossom – was rescued by the School of Biological Sciences undergraduate students on a field trip back in 2005. The turtle was found floating just in front of the research station during the field course and was carried back to the station for care by four students.

Summary of the turtles released:

Loggerhead turtle called “Blossom”
Condition on arrival: was very weak and dehydrated (eyes sunken), covered in algae & sea squirts. Missing front right flipper and the back of the shell (carapace) missing.
Bodyweight on arrival: 32.25kg
Currently: 56.15kg

Green turtle

Condition on arrival: Floating turtle with large barnacles, burrowing barnacles and leeches.
Body weight:15.4kg

Green turtle called “Thorpe”
Condition on arrival: Floating, lesions on carapace and a few surface parasites.
Body weight: 7.45kg
Currently: 9.75kg

Green tutle called “Splash”
Condition on arrival: Floating – possible impaction due to ingested marine debris
Body weight: 16.05kg
Currently: 18.9 kg

About the project: Since 2006, Earthwatch has been working with the University of Queensland's Moreton Bay Research Station and Dr Kathy Townsend on sick, injured and dead sea turtles. Underwater World Mooloolabah has also been supporting thte project by undertaking long term care of injured turtles, after initially being treated on North Stradbroke Island. The project relies heavily on the help and support of the traditional owners of North Stradbroke Island (Minjerrinbah) and Earthwatch volunteers.

Credits to EARTHWATCH Institute Australia:

Sign off: Project Orion III

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Endangered Species of the Week: Leatherback Turtle

Male leatherback turtle in open ocean

Species: Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The leatherback turtle has been known to weigh almost a tonne!

The world’s largest species of turtle, the leatherback is indeed a giant of the seas. This species earned its name due to the lack of bony plates on its shell, which is instead flexible and covered in a thin layer of leathery skin. The leatherback turtle feeds mainly on jellyfish and other soft bodied species. It is exceptional amongst reptiles because it is partly able to maintain an elevated body temperature, and uses this feature to allow it to dive to depths greater than 1,000 meters in search of prey. Females lay around 100 eggs in nests excavated on beaches, and the sex of the hatchling turtles is dependent on the temperature of the nest.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the leatherback turtle is global climate change. This is expected to affect this species through habitat loss, physiological changes and loss of prey. Other threats to the leatherback turtle include accidental capture by fishing nets, boat strikes, and ingestion of discarded plastics, which the turtles mistake for jellyfish. The leatherback turtle is protected throughout most of its range and many conservation projects have been set up on leatherback turtle nesting beaches. However, the future still remains uncertain for this fantastic reptile.

Discover more about threatened species on our new Endangered species pages.

Follow tagged leatherback turtles on the Tagging of Pacific Predators website.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Moran, B. (2011, 09 16). Endangered Species of the Week: Leatherback Turtle. Retrieved 09 18, 2011, from ARKive:

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Philippines holds three for turtle trafficking

Philippine police have arrested three people for allegedly trafficking in some of the world's rarest and least known turtles.

Philippine police arrested three people for allegedly trafficking in some of the world's rarest and least known turtles, officials said Thursday.

Police on Wednesday detained the two women and a man during a raid on a house in rundown district of Manila where 21 turtles and 70 endangered birds were found, said Marlyn Siglos, a member of the city government's media office.

Siglos said Wednesday's raid was the first major action by Manila mayor Alfredo Lim since he took office last year to stamp out the well-known trade of endangered species in the city.

"The mayor said we need to warn the public that the trade and export of endangered species is against the law," Siglos told AFP.

Police suspect the turtles and the birds -- 69 hill mynahs and one crested serpent-eagle -- seized this week were captured on the western island of Palawan and destined for export to supply the global pet trade, Siglos added.

The reptiles are believed to be Philippine pond turtles, critically endangered species found only on Palawan, said Josefina de Leon, wildlife resources division chief of the environment ministry.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has since 2000 listed the pond turtle -- a web-footed, freshwater creature that grows to about 21-centimetres (8.3-inches) long -- as "critically endangered".

"Known from only four specimens this species has acquired a mythical reputation that will make any further animals extremely valuable in the pet trade," the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species says.

Hill mynahs and crested serpent-eagles are not considered endangered by the IUCN, but de Leon said the Philippine government classified them on its own list as "vulnerable".

Trafficking in critically endangered species such as the pond turtles is punishable by up to four years in jail and a 300,000-peso (7,059-dollar) fine, according to de Leon.

Trafficking in "vulnerable" species attracts lesser penalties.

AFP. (2011, August 18). Philippines holds three for turtle trafficking. Retrieved September 08, 2011, from Yahoo News:

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Sea turtle who had global following found dead

(AP photo/The Palm Beach Post, Lannis Waters) - Click to see more images of Andre.
(AP photo/The Palm Beach Post, Lannis Waters)
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Andre, a sea turtle who survived catastrophic injuries and underwent a year of rehabilitation and innovative surgeries, has been found dead, three weeks after he was released off the Florida coast.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center, which had cared for the turtle, said he was found Wednesday on Hutchinson Island. David McClymont, the center's president, said staffers were able to identify the turtle from a tag that had been placed on him, but he was in such bad condition they couldn't determine what killed him.
"The staff and the entire volunteer base are deeply saddened," he said Thursday.
Just three weeks ago, a raucous crowd of hundreds gathered to watch Andre crawl into the sea and swim away. Onlookers hugged, wiped away tears and talked of the inspiration the reptile gave them.
Amid the disappointment over the sea turtle's death, his caretakers said the herculean efforts they took to save Andre — including several procedures considered animal firsts — were already helping others.
"The scientific advancements we made while rehabilitating Andre are already being applied in the treatment of other threatened and endangered sea turtles," the center said in a statement.
When Andre was found stranded on a sandbar on June 15, 2010, he had gaping holes in his shell, the result of two apparent boat strikes. More than three pounds of sand were inside him, along with at least a couple of crabs, a raging infection and a collapsed lung. His spinal cord was exposed, pneumonia was plaguing him and death seemed certain.
Any one of those injuries could have killed him, but his flippers were working and his neurological function appeared normal. So after beachgoers pulled him ashore on a boogie board, veterinarians began what became a yearlong effort to save him.
To help remove fluid and other materials and close his wounds, doctors used a vacuum therapy system. To help close gashes in the shell, a local orthodontist installed braces similar to those used on humans. And to fill in the gaping holes, doctors employed a procedure typically used to help regrow breast tissue in mastectomy patients and abdominal tissue in hernia patients.
The turtle's story was followed by many of the 225,000 annual visitors to the center and through a round-the-clock webcam. Children flooded him with mail and checks flowed in from around the world to support his care.
Green sea turtles have persisted since prehistoric times, but are endangered today. Only a small fraction of hatchlings survive and even fewer go on to reach adulthood and reproduce.
At 177 pounds when he was released, Andre was believed to be about 25 years old.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Marine debris: biodiversity impacts and potential solutions


Seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins are killed by abandoned fishing nets.
Pollution from human activities has major impact on the world’s marine ecosystems. Plastic refuse is one of the most pervasive types of pollution.

More than 80 million tons of plastics are estimated to be produced globally each year. These plastics are durable, requiring about 500 years to decompose in the ocean. Their durability and buoyancy allows them to be carried far from their sources.

Plastic gets into the ocean, into marine species and into us

For instance, the ratio of plastic to zooplankton in the major ocean gyres, which tend to concentrate floating material, is estimated to be up to 6:1 by weight.

Whales, fish and other marine species depend on zooplankton for food, as they are the fundamental link to the phytoplankton who the capture sun’s energy. Researchers currently believe plastics are taken up by zooplankton, thus entering the food chain.

Plastics also bring toxins into the food chain. When plastics break down, they produce toxic products. They also aggregate pollutants in the environment. Both are released when animals digest the plastic.

Globally more than 200 species are known to be affected by marine rubbish including whales, seals, dugong, seabirds, turtles, crabs, seasnakes, sharks, rays and other fish.

When plastics break down, they produce toxic products. (tedxgp/Flickr)

While many of these species are threatened, still others form part of our diet. This means that plastic ingested by wildlife not only affect them – their guts may be perforated and they may starve – but toxins from the plastics may also be absorbed by humans.

Tangled up in blue

Entanglement is also a significant threat to marine species. For example, up to 40,000 fur seals are killed each year when they get tangled in debris. This contributes to a population decline of 4-6% per year.

Entanglement affects nearly all groups of marine vertebrates. We know that in Australian waters turtles, cetaceans, seals, sea lions, seabirds, sharks and rays, crabs and other animals are affected.

Lost fishing gear and related refuse in particular is a major issue. Globally it is estimated that at least 6.4 million tons of commercial fishing gear is lost into the ocean each year.

The Gulf of Carpentaria, at the top end of Australia, provides a stunning example of this. More than 8,000 derelict fishing nets – which add up to 90,000 metres of net – have been cleaned up on beaches in the region.

Our oceanographic modelling suggests that these nets drift over large areas of the region, likely impacting six of the world’s seven marine turtle species which occur there. Many other species are probably also affected, but decay before the nets wash ashore and are found.

Where does it all come from and how did it get here?

Most importantly, despite recycling and other efforts, the problem is rapidly intensifying. Plastics production has grown 500% over the last 30 years. It is still increasing at a rate of 3-5% per year.

The amount of plastic in the environment is increasing at an exponential rate. This suggests both total volume of production and failures to appropriately dispose of plastics are contributing to plastics into the environment. Shockingly, the highest average plastic count on record is 334,271 pieces per square kilometer – and this is from a survey completed more than a decade ago.

Researchers are beginning to tackle this problem. They are trying to understand why plastics enter the environment, where they go once they are lost, and what impacts they have on marine species and ecosystems.

Encouraging people to recycle plastic bottles can make a real difference. (tedxgp/Flickr)

In our research, for instance, we are assessing the marine debris that washes up on shores around Australia. We’re comparing types of marine rubbish in urban areas versus those in remote locations to identify likely domestic versus foreign contributions to marine debris.

This work relies heavily upon the countless volunteers and community groups that conduct beach clean ups in their area. It is an excellent example of the value of citizen scientists/volunteer collected data.

We use these data with oceanographic models to track likely sources and sinks of marine rubbish through space and time. We see seasonal differences in marine rubbish washing up along the coastline, much of which is likely due to differences in ocean current patterns that differ at different times of the year. And we’re learning about what types of debris are found near urban centers (plastic bags, cigarette butts, sundry items) and in more remote areas (such as fishing gear off the west coast of Tasmania).

How can we solve the problem?

Tackling marine debris will require cultural change via a mix of education, incentives, and regulation. Plastic bottle recycling is an excellent example – it has increased every year since 1990 to 2.2 trillion pounds in 2006.

Educational tools, such as the plastics identification code on bottles, provided essential knowledge for the public and increased participation. Bottle deposits, an economic incentive, resulted in a 75% reduction in losses into the environment. Regulations, such as recent prohibitions on disposable drink bottles may further reduce the problem.

However, our lack of information makes it hard to target education, incentives and regulation. Linking plastic in the environment to particular factories, stores, fishers or consumers is currently impossible. This means that our tools for cultural change must be broadly targeted, while losses into the environment are likely due to an irresponsible minority, as in many other types of pollution.

Human behaviour needs to change from the current throwaway culture being status quo, and accountability is a fundamental ingredient in this change.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.

Britta Denise Hardesty

Research Scientist, Ecosystem Sciences at CSIRO

Chris Wilcox
Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO

Monday, 15 August 2011

Baby Sea Turtles Attacked

National Geographic (n.d.). Baby Sea Turtles Attacked. Retrieved August 14, 2011, from National Geographic:

"Less than 1% of the hatchlings actually made it to adulthood. "

So let us not deny the hatchlings their already slim chance of surviving into adulthood, by not eating turtles eggs and not throwing litters indiscriminately into the sea today.

Protect the eggs.

Stop littering.

And pass on the message of conservation to the people around you.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Turtle crisis looms for Great Barrier Reef

Hawksbill turtles are threatened from fishing activities and international trade.

Queensland, Australia: WWF has received numerous reports from aboriginal groups on the north-eastern coast of Australia of large numbers of sick, starving and dead turtles washing up on beaches. The reports come following the loss of sea grasses after Cyclone Yasi and floods hit the area back in February.

The increase in turtle deaths for April may be more than five times higher this year compared to the same time last year.

“If these numbers are accurate, then this is a shocking development for the Great Barrier Reef” said WWF’s Conservation on Country Manager Cliff Cobbo. “We urgently need clarification from the Queensland Government on how many turtles are being found dead along the Great Barrier Reef coast”.

Turtle hospitals in Townsville, Queensland are being overwhelmed with sick and starving animals and do not have the resources to handle the number of turtles expected to need emergency care over the next 18 months.

Some local aboriginal groups have been so concerned by what they are seeing they plan to suspend issuing hunting permits within their saltwater country.

CEO of the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation, Phil Rist, said large numbers of dead turtles and dugongs had been found in recent weeks and that strandings are occurring on a weekly basis.

Numerous threats

WWF believes recent extreme weather events like Cyclone Yasi and the Queensland floods, together with threats such as entanglement in fishing nets, water pollution and large-scale coastal developments have led to this increase in deaths.

“In the past turtles have been healthy enough to deal with extreme weather events, but the combined pressure of more fishing nets, declining water quality and associated disease, on top of the loss of critical habitats as a result of large coastal developments have all undermined their chances of survival,” Cobbo said.

WWF is calling on both sides of Queensland politics to commit to building greater resilience in populations of threatened marine species on the Great Barrier Reef through reforming net fisheries, reducing land-based pollution on the reef, and better managing large coastal developments.

WWF’s Global Marine Turtle Programme

Six of the seven species of marine turtle are classified as endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

WWF has been working on marine turtle conservation for nearly 50 years and has provided a Global Marine Turtle Strategy to outline WWF priorities for marine turtle conservation.

The benefits of saving marine turtles go far beyond simply protecting these remarkable species.

Conservation efforts will make fisheries more sustainable and provide benefits to small communities and with marine turtles becoming increasingly important as an ecotourism attraction, a live turtle is worth more than a dead turtle.

Green sea turtle. Zanzibar Island. Tanzania
Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)

WWF. (2011, August 10). Turtle crisis looms for Great Barrier Reef. Retrieved August 10, 2011, from WWF Global: