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Sea turtle saved from drain in Lihue

LIHUE >> A Hawaiian green sea turtle that was rescued from a storm drain in Lihue is now being monitored by biologists after its release at a Kalapaki Beach.

Biologist Don Heacock worked with Department of Transportation employees Friday morning to rescue the animal, which was secured with a rope and lifted from the drain by a forklift. The turtle was found underweight and slightly injured, The Garden Island reported.

“She should be roughly 125 pounds,” said Heacock, of the Kauai District Fisheries. “But she’s very light; she’s probably around 90 pounds because she’s lost so much weight. She’s emaciated; we can tell that by the concavity of her bottom shell.”

Heacock said the young turtle, estimated to be 32 inches long, may have been stuck since Christmas. He credits the rescue to a group of children that first spotted the turtle in the drain Thursday night.

“What really saved her were the kids who looked down and saw her in the storm drain,” he said. “Because no one looks in storm drains unless they drop their keys.”

Heacock said the turtle may have been feeding on algae in the bay when it got swept into the drain during high tide. Another possibility, he said, is that the turtle was too weak to fight a wave and got pushed in.

“Sea turtles can’t go in reverse,” Heacock said. “To change directions, they have to completely turn themselves around.”

The sea turtle was tagged and driven to Kalapaki Beach, where it was released into the water.

The population of Hawaiian green sea turtles is continuing to grow, Heacock said.

“The green turtles here don’t migrate to Tahiti or Samoa, they stay right in Hawaii,” he said. “That’s why they are a distinct population.”

Heacock, who has been Kauai’s biologist for 35 years, said Friday’s rescue was a rare occurrence for him. He said installing flapper valves on storm drains would help prevent those incidents from becoming more common.

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