A two-headed turtle emerged from a green turtle nest at Pulau Mabul in Malaysia last Monday, according to a report by The Star Online.

The hatchling came from a nest of 93 other hatchlings that were released at the Mabul Turtle Hatchery that has been run by SJ SEAS, which is a conservation arm of Scuba Junkie, a dive operator.

The hatchery had released around 13,000 hatchlings, said SJ SEAS chairman Mohd Khairuddin Riman, noting that finding that two-headed turtle was very rare. Marine biologist and SJ SEAS conservation manager David McCann said the heads can luckily breathe independently and react to stimuli separately.

The rare sight of a two-headed turtle hatchling has left turtle conservationists in amazement, as it emerged from a green turtle nest at Pulau Mabul near here on Monday (July 15).

“It is utterly fascinating. The right head seems to control the front right flipper, and the left head the front flipper,” McCann explained. “Yet they are capable of coordinating their movements in order to walk and swim.”

Dr. Sen Nathan, Sabah Wildlife Department’s (SWD) Wildlife Rescue Unit chief veterinarian, claimed “dicephalism” is unusual, but is not unheard of. He said there was a similar case in Redang back in 2014. The hatchling was studied in its first three months, but it died later on from pneumonia.

“Unfortunately, these turtles would not survive in the wild – including this specimen, whose plastron is not fully developed or closed,” Nathan said. “Observation by the 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, allowing it to breathe easily.”

SWD director Augustine Tuuga said the hatchling is currently kept under observation at the Mabul Turtle Rehabilitation Center.

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