S'porean man stumbles upon multiple hawksbill turtle hatchlings at East Coast Park

Cute sight.

Fiona Tan | October 10, 2023, 04:27 PM



A man in Singapore recently stumbled upon multiple hawksbill turtle hatchlings at East Coast Park, sharing about the encounter in video posted on TikTok on Oct. 7, 2023.

More turtle hatchlings

The man — who referred to himself as AJ — said he spotted the turtle hatchlings at around midnight and advised cyclists, runners, and other late-night visitors to the park to take note.

In the video, he added that the National Parks Board (NParks) had been alerted and he was waiting for their arrival.

"They're going to take them to a safe area," AJ said.

Meanwhile, he seized the opportunity to document the experience.

Remarking that it was his first time encountering hatchlings, AJ may have gotten a little too carried away in the process.

He could be seen in the video holding the hatchlings in his hand in three separate clips.

@the_rehabist Midnight Surprise Sea Turtle Hatchlings @ East Coast Park #seaturtle #seaturtleconservation ♬ original sound - AJ

The video also showed hatchlings in a styrofoam box.

Mixed reactions towards man-holding hatchlings

Replying to commenters who were questioning why he'd handled the hatchlings, AJ said that they were "headed in the wrong direction" and that NParks had advised him to provide assistance.

Image screenshot from TikTok.

However, most of the commenters commended AJ for assisting the hatchlings.

Image screenshot from TikTok.

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) co-chief executive officer Kalai Vanan told Mothership he was grateful to AJ for helping the hatchlings.

Individuals who spot hatchlings, nesting turtles or turtle eggs, should call the NParks' hotline at 1800-4710-4300 or the Acres' hotline at 97837782.

In general, they are advised to keep a safe distance and keep noise levels low.

They should also avoid touching them as much as possible unless they are qualified to do so, Kalai said.

Handling the eggs and turtle hatchlings may not only introduce bacteria, but stress them out and negatively affect their ability to imprint and survive.

Comment left on AJ's video. Image screenshot from TikTok.

It is also worth noting that collecting the hatchlings or the eggs of a hawksbill turtle is an offence in Singapore as it is a protected species under the Wildlife Act.

What is imprinting?

Turtle hatchlings imprint — form a connection to the particular makeup of sand on a beach — as they crawl over the sand and make their way into the ocean.

This process is important down the line as the turtles will return to the same beach where they imprinted to nest once they are mature.

As such, picking up a hatchling might mess with their imprinting process.

Hatchlings are fragile

A turtle that has just hatched from an egg is also extremely sensitive and fragile.

Handling a turtle hatchling improperly can damage its shell —which has yet to harden — and its organs within, and cause its food sac to burst.

The food sac contains at least three days' worth of food for the hatchling, which is absolutely vital for its survival in the first few days of its life before it learns to eat.

What you can do instead

As turtle hatchlings use the reflection of moonlight on the ocean horizon to find their way to water, they might confuse that with other light sources.

This disorients them and can result in the hatchlings going off course, straying inland away from the ocean and winding up stranded, Kalai said.

In fact, there have been instances in Singapore where turtle hatchlings have crawled inland and wound up on the pedestrian walkway and cycling path instead.

In such instances, individuals can gently rotate the turtle hatchlings towards the right direction and if need be, create a barrier using natural materials like sand to encourage the turtle hatchlings to move towards the ocean.

Individuals can also help to inform other members of the public to keep out of the way, and remove the trash and other miscellaneous obstacles that may obstruct the turtle hatchlings' path.

Kalai said they can also help do a headcount of the number of hatchlings to ensure all are accounted for when help arrives.

About the hawksbill turtle

The hawksbill turtle is one of two sea turtle species found on Singapore's shores, with the other being the green turtle.

Green turtles can be found all over the world, in tropical and subtropical waters, whereas hawksbill turtles favour warmer temperatures and can be found in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Both species are endangered.

Kalai said the hatchlings are most likely hawksbill turtles as they are known to nest at East Coast Park.

More turtle hatchlings :')

Top image from @the_rehabist/TikTok