Taipei, Aug. 11 (CNA) Twenty-four baby green sea turtles were rescued and released into the ocean Sunday, after the newly hatched creatures were seen crawling up a beach in southern Taiwan toward the lights from a nearby hotel, according to the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium (NMMBA).
The baby turtles were spotted on Dawan Beach in Kenting National Park by hotel staff, who called the park's headquarters, Lee Chung-hsien, a veterinarian at NMMBA, said Monday.
Lee said that when he rushed to the rescue, along with park rangers and coastguard officers, he saw the baby sea turtles crawling up the beach, away from the water and toward the hotel lights.
Knowing that newly hatched sea turtles could die of exhaustion if they get lost on the way to the water, Lee said, he and the officers picked up the 24 little creatures and released them into the ocean.
Prior to Sunday, coastguard officers in the area had been alerted by the Pingtung County government that conservationist had spotted sea turtle tracks on Dawan Beach in mid-July, Lee told CNA.
He said green sea turtles usually lay eggs from May to October, with July and August being the peak period, but the number of nesting turtles on beaches on the main island of Taiwan has been declining in recent years.
Some of the factors contributing to the decline are changes in the beach terrain, an increase in human traffic on the beaches, and a higher incidence of abandoned undersea fishing nets that impede the movement of sea turtles to the shore, according to Lee.
As a result, the sea turtles have been hatching on other Taiwan islands, including Xiaoliuqiu, Penghu and Lanyu, he said.
In Kenting, while there are green sea turtles off the coast, they rarely go ashore in that area to lay eggs because of the large number of people on the beaches and the tightly packed sand, which makes it hard for the turtles to dig holes, Lee said.
Before Sunday, "the last record of turtles (on a Kenting beach) was in 2017," he said. "It is exciting to see green sea turtles returning to a beach on the Hengchun Peninsula."
Lee said people should not leave deckchairs and other personal items on the beach, and he advised that they fill in their sandpits so as not to block the path of baby sea turtles trying to get to the water.
Furthermore, people should avoid going to Dawan Beach at night, he said, adding that the hotel nearby has been asked to lower its lighting to avoid distracting newly hatched sea turtles.
Meanwhile, Hsu Mao-jing, the conservation division chief at Kenting National Park Headquarters, said the park will step up its patrols on Dawan Beach, pending discussions on whether to limit entry.
Kenting National Park on the Hengchun Peninsula at the southern tip of Taiwan is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.
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Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium