The death of a critically endangered Hawksbill turtle is likely due to pollution in the Avatiu Harbour.
While scientists with the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) have been
unable to determine the official cause of death of the turtle found on Tuesday
morning, one has said it likely swallowed fuel or some type of contaminant, as
the harbour is polluted.
The turtle was found and retrieved by employees from local company
General Transport, who later contacted MMR.
The turtle was then collected by MMR marine scientists Bermy Ariihee
and Michael Parrish, who performed a necropsy at the ministry’s laboratory in
an effort to determine a cause of death.
On Wednesday Ariihee said the turtle was found dead in the harbour
“It was quite likely pollution, the harbour is polluted.
“This is the first time we have been in this situation, usually you
could determine the cause of death.”
No markings were observed on the exterior of the turtle and after
careful examination of the esophagus, stomach, intestines and throat, nothing
abnormal (plastics, pollution, twine, etc.) was found.
As a result, the cause of death was unable to be determined.
Ariihee said the turtle was likely to be two to three-years-old, based
on the length of its shell.
“Hawksbill turtles have a wide habitat range and can be found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans,” she said.
“They are a critically endangered species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which means they’re at high risk of extinction.
“But here in the Cook Islands we’re fortunate enough to see them
commonly, but in other countries seeing this species is rare.”
She referred Cook Islands News to www.iucnredlist.org. The website
states the Hawksbill has most recently been assessed for the IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species in 2008. It is listed on the website as critically
“Meitaki Ma’ata to General Transport for contacting the ministry in
response to the event, and strongly encourages the public to continue reporting
cases like this,” the ministry said in a statement.