On Tuesday (Jul 16), Sabah welcomed a two-headed turtle at a turtle breeding centre, Mabul Turtle Hatchery.
Its existence was a celebration on itself and photos of the two-headed turtle went viral on social media, marvelling netizens nationwide.
Sadly, however, The Star reported hours ago that the rare flipper had died 72 hours after hatching. The twin-head turtle took its last baby breath at 2.30am Thursday (July 18), in Pulau Mabul on Sabah’s east coast Semporna.
Despite its early death, conservationists were not surprised by it as they knew full well that its chances of survival were low.
“It is common for such two-headed hatchlings not to last longer,” said Sabah Wildlife Department director Datuk Augustine Tuuga.
On the turtle’s birth-day, the breeding centre’s marine biologist, David McCann, said both of the turtle’s heads breathed independently and reacted to stimuli separately.
The Borneo Post also reported Assoc Prof Dr Juanita Joseph of the Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, as saying that the twin-head turtle is not a result of pollution.
“A two-headed turtle is called bicephalic or dicephalic and this rarely occurs in sea turtles and perhaps genetic factors play a significant role for this two-headed sea turtle.
“Sometimes there are genetic disorders, just like human beings sometimes having an abnormality in chromosomes,” explained Dr Juanita.
Mabul Turtle Hatchery has protected and overseen an estimated 13,000 hatchlings of turtles. It is the breeding centre’s first time welcoming a twin-head turtle.
However, it was not the first case in Malaysia. In 2014, Pulau Redang, Terengganu also welcomed a twin-head turtle.
The turtle was studied for three months before it died from pneumonia − a lungs inflation caused by a bacterial or viral infection.
“This (Redang) turtle shared internal organs, but the problem arose because one head would take the air or food while the other head would inadvertently drink, and eventually it died,” said Dr Juanita.
That is so sad. We did not even get to name the turtle and we already have to bid goodbye to the cutie.
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