“Having, catching, selling or buying any sea turtles, dead or alive, is illegal regardless of the reasons given. All kinds of sea turtles are protected by law,” said PMBC Director Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong.
The warning follows the owner of a restaurant in Cherng Talay buying an Olive Ridley turtle from a “stranger” yesterday as he saw it was in need of medical attention and wanted to make merit.
The turtle was weak. Its front left flipper had already been severed and its rear left flipper has suffered deep cut, most likely from a fishing net.
After buying the turtle for B300, the restaurateur called Kusoldharm Foundation rescue workers, who transported the shelled reptile to the PMBC for treatment.
But before the turtle was rushed to the island’s key marine wildlife centre, the restaurant owner stuck gold foil on its shell as a way of encouraging good luck to befall him.
PMBC veterinarian Phatcharaporn Kaeomong, an expert in rare and endangered species, said that the deep cut to the turtle’s rear left flipper had festered and that it might have to be amputated.
“The tissue in the rear left flipper has died, which indicates that the turtle has had this injury for quite a while. We will also need to x-ray the severed front flipper to determine the extent of damage done there,” she said.
“If the turtle survives and recovers well, we’ll fit a prosthetic fin to help it swim after it has been released,” she added.
Ms Phatcharaporn confirmed that the turtle, which weighs 25-30 kilograms, is 5-10 years old.
“But we have yet to confirm its gender,” she said.
Despite her misgivings about people buying an injured turtle as a way of invoking good luck, Ms Phatcharaporn was thankful the turtle ended up in the PMBC’s care.
“The idea of rescuing the turtle is better than any other reason,” she said. “It is is endangered species and listed for wildlife protection, which it should receive.”
“Please inform the PMBC if you find any turtles, dead or alive,” Ms Phatcharaporn said, adding that she can be contacted at the PMBC at Tel: 076-391128.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub