Rare two-headed turtle hatchling found in Sabah wildlife conservation area

Conservationists working off of Mabul island near Semporna, in the east coast area of Sabah, were surprised when a two-headed green turtle hatchling emerged from a nest yesterday.

Dive operators Scuba Junkie have a conservation arm, dubbed SJ SEAS, and run a turtle hatchery on the island. The two-headed lil guy was one of 93 newly born turtles at the center.

Speaking to Free Malaysia Today, SJ SEAS chairman Mohd Khairuddin Riman said that in all of their 13,000 births and releases, the wildlife preservation group had not seen anything like it.

“The Sabah Wildlife Department’s (SWD) honorary wildlife wardens were all intrigued, as well as busy – we had two batches of hatchlings emerge last night and yet another turtle nesting,” he told the online portal.

Marine biologist, and conservation manager at SJ SEAS, David McCann, said each head was breathing independently and was reacting to different triggers.

“It is fascinating. The right head seems to control the front right flipper, and the left head the front left flipper.

“Yet they are capable of coordinating their movements to walk and swim.”

An official from SWD has described the condition as dicephalism, aka having two heads, and reports that it is unusual to find in the wild. Another similar case was reported in Redang island, though the hatchling died after three months after catching pneumonia.

“Unfortunately, these turtles would not survive in the wild, including this specimen, whose plastron (the flat bottom part of a turtle shell) is not fully developed or closed.

“Observation by 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 to allow it to breathe easily,” said SWD chief veterinarian, Dr. Sen Nathan.

As the turtles are a protected species by law, the hatchling will be kept under observation by biologists at the Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Center.

This article, Rare two-headed turtle hatchling found in Sabah wildlife conservation area, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!