A group of divers stumbled upon a devastating discovery of a turtle’s carcass tied to a rock in Terengganu’s Underwater Gallery in Pulau Bidong on Wednesday.
It was no ordinary turtle but a critically endangered hawksbill turtle.
Kong Mei Shuet, one of nine divers in a group who discovered the carcass, told The Star Online today, “One of its hind legs was tied to a rock. Our dive instructor then cut the turtle loose.”
Kong, 21, a marine biology student at Universiti Malaya Terengganu (UMT), believes someone must have tied the turtle to the rock.
“The knot was neatly tied to a rock and to the deeper part of the leg. It is impossible for a turtle’s leg to be stuck that deep into that tightened knot,” she said.
Biologists estimate that the hawksbill sea turtle population has declined 80 percent in the past 100 years.
Being air-breathing reptiles, sea turtles need to surface occasionally to breathe. In this instance, with its leg tied to a rock, the turtle obviously could not get to the surface, and hence, drowned.
“The body of the turtle simply floated to the surface after we released it from the rock.
“Before it floated away, we honoured it by taking it for one last swim. We do not want to bury it on land as the natural habitat for turtles is the ocean,” said Kong.
Expressing her dismay at the treatment of the rare and vulnerable species, she said that she was more motivated to protect the ocean after the encounter.
Terengganu’s Underwater Gallery is the only one of its kind in Malaysia. The underwater gallery hosts replicas of an inscribed stone, a keris, a traditional sampan and other exhibits located 15 meters underwater.