Floating hospital saves sea turtles

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 4, 2013
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In Xincun Port, Lingshui County in south China's Hainan province, there is a floating fishing village. Local residents seldom set foot on land, living in wooden cabins set up on rows of fishing rafts.

In this village on the sea, there stands one special cabin. The whitewashed structure is a hospital for rescued sea turtles, an endangered species that is under state protection in China.

Frederick C. Yeh, a 32-year-old Chinese-American, is the founder of the hospital. Yeh was planning on becoming a doctor when he graduated from medical school at Johns Hopkins University in the United States in 2005.

But when he returned to his childhood home in Hainan in 2007, Yeh discovered that sea turtles were sold for meat and shells in local markets.

"We have plenty of food that's available to us, but these animals are endangered, and there are not many left," he said. "If we keep on eating them, eventually they will be extinct."

Shocked, Yeh then changed his life plan and decided to devote himself to protecting the threatened chelonia.

In 2008, Yeh established Sea Turtle 911, a non-profit organization rescuing sea turtles across coastal regions in Hainan.

To better protect the ancient animals, Yeh founded the floating hospital in Xincun one year later to work with local law enforcement agencies and improve awareness of sea turtle conservation among local fishermen.

There are currently 14 "patients" being treated at the floating hospital. Among them are a Hawksbill turtle that lost one of its limbs, a green turtle with a sunken shell, and many other injured or sick olive ridley sea turtles.

To save more sea turtles, Yeh and his volunteers travel around Hainan to treat and tend to injured animals. Over the past four years, Yeh and the volunteers have saved more than 150 turtles,about 100 of which have been released back into the sea.

In addition to rescue and release efforts, Yeh and his team have also engaged in research. Yeh spent over 30,000 yuan (about 4,900 U.S. dollars) fitting a satellite tag to one of the released turtles to facilitate conservation research.

"It helps us learn more about migration: where they breed, where they forage and where they are spending most of their time," Yeh said. "If we can focus on the areas where the turtles spend most of their time, then we can put more energy toward protecting them."

Yeh is also working on artificial sea turtle breeding in cooperation with a local university, but despite these efforts, the living conditions of sea turtles are far from satisfactory.

A 2011 report by U.S.-based environmental organization Conservation International classified sea turtles living in waters surrounding India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as being the most endangered, describing Asia as a "dangerous area" for sea turtles.


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