We have been catching and releasing small juvenile turtles at Mantanani, off Sabah, Malaysia (Borneo) since 2006. Nearly every turtle we encounter is a small juvenile, and shortly after 2006 an illegal fishign boat wiped out much of our research stock.
But things are changing, and in the last year we have seen a dramatic rise in new recruits. These are animals which have left the beaches as baby hatchlings and spent the next five to six years out in the open ocean. They can be readily distingiushed from our longer resident animals by their beautiful white and smooth plastron (underside) which has no scratches, indicating they have never ‘reseted’ on the seabed before. They also invariably have no barnacles whatsoever, suggesting a constantmoving lifestyle, as opposed to the lazier habit of resting on the reef or sandy bottom when they arrive at coastal feeding grounds.
For some reason we are seeing a rise in arrivals of these new recruits (16 new ones this year in a populaiton of a couple of hundred, compared to the two or three we found in the past), which is good news for out turtle population – no new recruits, no animals to grow up and become adults!