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A bit of this and that

Today is sort of special as our first four river terrapin hatchlings emerged from Nest No. 1 that was laid on 10th February 2008. After five seasons of seeing them hatch and emerge, I still feel wonder and excitement when hatching time comes.

All four were perfectly formed, weighing between 62 to 64 g with a straight carapace (top shell) length of 6.35 to 6.65 cm and width of 6.59 to 6.79 cm. You will notice that they are a little wider than they are long. Absolutely cute and adorable!

Our returning volunteers from Chagar Hutang (Slot F) had a chance to have a look at the new hatchlings and they brought good news. A new hawksbill turtle nested and since it was an early morning event, they were able to photograph it. It turned out that they had seen two hawksbill nestings in their one week. I know some of our ex-volunteers will be green with envy…

The 4th picture shows 2008H001 being tagged by Harry and the 6th picture shows the lucky and pleased volunteers posing with Man and the hawksbill. Her curved carapace length was just 76 cm. She really looks so small. Lets see how many nests she will lay this season. (Photo credit: Alarick, on the extreme left in the picture.)

Tracking of the terrapins was resumed today by James with Rani as the boatman. I could not make it as I have to meet and brief new volunteers, as well as receive and debrief returning volunteers every Saturday. I am also frantically grading students’ exam scripts to meet the deadline for submission of grades.

11521, 11516 and 11509, the three terrapins released on 2 May 2008 were located. The first terrapin released on 31 March 2008 was still not found. 11509, the eight-year old had left the offshoot of the Setiu and moved into the main water body. 11516 was found downstream from where she was last located on 6th May and was quite close to Pak Lah Teh from where she was released. 11509 seemed to be at the same spot as the last time we had made contact with her.

At about 9.40 am, Rani spotted a terrapin with its fore-limb caught on the hook of a fishing line. It was a male painted terrapin, easily identified by its distinctive white head and orange stripe along its top (7th picture). Notice how handsome it looks. It was easily freed. (Photo credit: James, who used his handphone to capture the shots.)

The frequency of terrapins caught in fish hooks appears alarmingly high. We will have to make an investigation. I will look into the possibility of introducing Circle Hooks to the local fishermen and determine its effectiveness in reducing terrapin catch. These hooks have been developed to reduce by-catch of marine turtles in longlines.

Chan, reporting on activities on 10 May 2008.

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