A two-headed turtle hatchling was sighted emerging from a green turtle nest at Pulau Mabul, a small island off the south-eastern coast of Sabah on Monday (15th July). This rare hatchling comes from a batch of 93 hatchlings that emerged at the Mabul Turtle Hatchery run by Scuba Junkie SEAS, the conservation arm of dive operator, Scuba Junkie.
The hatchling was then kept for observation and further study while the other 92 were released from the beach in front of the resort.
In a Facebook post, Scuba Junkie SEAS said that two-headed turtle’s condition is called dicephalism, and although it is an extremely rare condition, it is actually seen in a wide variety of species.“After consultation with the Sabah Wildlife Department HQ and vets from the Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit, it was decided that the hatchling should be transferred to our Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Centre for care and observation before any further decisions are made,” they said in their post.
According to The Star, SJ SEAS chairman Mohd Khairuddin Riman said that out of an approximate 13,000 hatchlings released from the hatchery, he has never come across anything like this before.
SJ SEAS conservation manager and marine biologist David McCann explained that both the heads of the hatchling are able to breathe independently and react to stimuli separately.
“It is utterly fascinating. The right head seems to control the front right flipper, and the left head the front left flipper. Yet they are capable of co-ordinating their movements in order to walk and swim,” he said.
Aww, so cute!Sabah Wildlife Department’s (SWD) Wildlife Rescue Unit chief veterinarian Dr Sen Nathan said that while dicephalism is extremely rare, it is not something people haven’t heard of, and related a similar case that happened in Redang in 2014.
“The hatchling was studied for three months before it sadly died of pneumonia. Unfortunately, these turtles would not survive in the wild – including this specimen, whose plastron is not fully developed or closed,” he said.
The hatchling is now being kept under observation by the dedicated biologists and Honorary Wildlife Wardens who run the Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Their primary concern is for the welfare of the hatchling and to make sure they are comfortable and taken care of.
“Observation by the biologists on site also indicated that in deeper water, one head couldn’t get above water comfortably to breathe. The hatchling is being kept in shallow water, allowing it to breathe easily.”
Here’s the original Facebook post:
As you may have already seen in the local media, a two-headed green sea turtle has hatched at our Mabul Turtle…
This hatchling looks so cute, don’t you think? Hopefully they will be able to survive these tender stages of life after hatching from their egg and that they will be able to grow old in the care of the conservationists.
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