Local police assisted with the collection and release of hatchling sea turtles by putting them in a freshwater pond and feeding them biscuits and rice.
The baby sea turtles were found in January on Nilandhoo island in Faafu Atoll.
A source involved in the rescue spoke to Minivan News about the incident.
“When there is too much light on an island, the baby turtles become confused and head inland instead of towards the sea [after being hatched]. People found the baby turtles all around and in the interior of the island,” the source explained.
“The Maldivian mentality is to keep the turtles as pets. They completely lack awareness. The police know this is illegal, so they collected all the turtles and put them in a freshwater pond.
“They also fed them biscuits and rice, because they were unaware of the proper diet for sea turtles.
Some of the turtles were injured and shrank, given their change of habitat and irregular diet, claimed the source.
“The police don’t know the proper conditions to keep sea turtles and lacked the facilities. A few died,” the source stated. “We don’t blame the police. At least they tried to save them.”
“They were very efficient and checked with the proper government authorities [regarding where they could be transferred for rehabilitation],” the source added.
Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that many hatchling sea turtles were found on Nilandhoo and the local police intervened.
“The local police identified who had them, where they were located and then they were collected and released,” stated Haneef.
“At the time the local police were briefed and they coordinated with the Marine Research Centre in Male’,” he added.
Haneef was unaware of what the turtles were fed or if they were transferred anywhere to be rehabilitated.
Captive sea turtles
In late 2012, 104 hatchling turtles were taken from the uninhabited island Kakaaeriyadhoo in Shaviyani Atoll and sold to islanders on Kan’ditheemu.
“These baby turtles were kept in cooking pots with freshwater or small freshwater ponds and tanks,” a resident of Kan’ditheemu and conservationist Hassan Solah told Minivan News.
“This is very detrimental because they develop fungal infections and they cannot regulate their buoyancy since salt water is denser than fresh.
“The turtles become severely weakened and cannot survive in captivity or even in the ocean, assuming they are eventually released,” Solah added.
Kakaaeriyadhoo was previously leased by the island council to a local from Kan’ditheemu.
“I spoke with him and he agreed not to take any more baby turtles and sell them as pets. Now no one is caring for Kakaaeriyadhoo, it is under the care of the Atoll Council,” said Solah.