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Akira’s Turtle Catching Experience

The past four days of my life were marked by yet another incomparable life-experience! I was given the unique opportunity to join Dr. Nicholas Pilcher (Marine Research Foundation Sabah Malaysia) and Markus Ruf, our marine biologist during the Pangaea Borneo Project, onto their research trip to Pulau Mantanani where we would jump onto turtles and conduct some research on them.

And oh yes, we did!

Laparoscopy on Turtles

Unlike the methods of turtle conservation I had been familiar with before (within turtle hatcheries), laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that uses a miniature telescope to view the inside of the peritoneal cavity. Laparoscopy can be used to determine the sex of immature turtles or the reproductive status of adults. Knowing the sex of the animals is essential for turtle population predictions and conservation management.
But of course, before one can proceed with laparoscopy, the turtle has to be caught. And that's where the action comes in! In order to catch a turtle, you have to literally jump on it and grab it by its carapace and lift it out of the water. Sounds exciting, is exciting.

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Deploying Satellite Transmitters

We were hoping to catch three turtles onto which we could deploy satellite transmitters. It was important that the turtles were of fairly large size as that told us that there is a good probability that the turtle abandons the foraging ground to find a next habitation. We are very curious whether the tracked turtles will reveal the secret and let us know where their lives continue.

You can follow our three turtles, Shelly, Quasimodo and Voyager at

Sponge Bob Diving for the Sake of Cancer Research

And last but not least, research diving!

Owing to the Marine Research Foundation's (MRF) collaboration with the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), I got to dive for the sake of scientific research and collect a number of sponge species.
Marine invertebrates carry particular chemicals for self-defense in which the NCI are strongly interested in. (The samples they are supplied with are tested for anti-cancer and anti-AIDS properties.)
At first the mere thought of ripping sponges apart seemed somewhat different to me but I would turn into a "Reed Raider" in no time. Not only does this project have the potential to save lives but also to expose Borneo's biodiversity including many new species.

It was a very new and enriching experience to collect those samples, pickle them in alcohol and archive them.

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I want to thank Dr. Nicholas Pilcher for giving me the opportunity to experience this field trip. I am well aware of the fact that not many researchers carry out laparoscopy on turtles and that even fewer are able to witness it. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to have lived the past days aboard Tortuga Madre.


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