AFTER DECADES in captivity, three turtles are going to be returned into the ocean in September. Biologists from Zoomarine in Guia have been training the animals to survive by their own means. Accustomed to contact with man, the turtles have had to learn to see man as a ‘dangerous predator’ before they can be released back into the water.
The turtles have been kept at the rehabilitation centre for marine species at Zoomarine’s Porto d’Abrigo. Now 30-years-old, the first arrival, a green turtle from Funchal’s municipal museum, was captured by fishermen when he was small. As he grew, the museum realised it did not have adequate conditions to keep him, so he was moved to Zoomarine in order to be trained and returned to the wild.
A year later, two more adult turtles came to the Porto d’Abrigo from the Vasco da Gama aquarium in Lisbon, where they had been for three decades. It is estimated that the turtles, which are approximately one metre in length and weigh over 100 kilos each, are over 40-years-old.
Biologist Élio Vicente from Zoomarine said that the three turtles are going to be released next to the main square in Sagres. Before then, they are going to be taught to identify the type of food to eat in the sea and to fear all human contact, therefore minimising the risk of them being captured by fishermen.
This is the first time that a sea animal over 30-years-old is being returned to the wild. Biologists are planning to install a transmitter into the shells of the creatures to track their movements, and there are plans to create an internet site, so that investigators and members of the public can follow the turtles’ path.