Rescued turtles believed to be older than Tonga's Constitution

07 May 2011, 15:30
Nuku'alofa, Tonga: 
by Mary Lyn Fonua

Two ancient hawksbill turtles thought to be 150-170 years old were rescued from a certain slow death on the Nuku'alofa waterfront yesterday morning by local conservationists who saw their plight and rallied local businesses for support to save them.

Two hawksbill turtles, older than Tonga's constitution, lie slowly cooking in the sun and choking on the Nuku'alofa waterfront yesterday. All species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered but hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered.

All species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered in the world but the hawksbill sea turtles are on an IUCN red alert list of critically endangered species. 

Hawksbill turtles are relatively small sea turtles but it took five men to lift the exhausted pair onto the back of a truck, after a settlement was reached with the Touliki-Ma'ufanga family that was selling them for food. The turtles were rushed off to a recovery immersion in the tanks of the fisheries department. Then, later in the day, three more very old sea turtles, including hawksbill and green turtles, were discovered at the home of the fisherman who had received them in an overnight shipment from Ha'apai. 

The turtles were all suffering from injuries, and bleeding from damaged shells after being dropped upside down and dragged on the ground. It is usual for fishermen to turn turtles upside down to keep them alive, while they try to find buyers.

Fisheries department tanks a resting place for the badly
abused ancient turtles
A wounded turtle takes a breather at the Fisheries tanks

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