This Olive Ridley Turtle was fitted with satellite transmitters before being released to the South China Sea. One of the transmitters is now sending signals from an Indonesian town.
updated 5/2/2007 7:10:57 PM ET 2007-05-02T23:10:57

Satellite transmitters glued to the back of a turtle released into the South China Sea last year are beaming signals from an Indonesian coastal town — and scientists are offering $500 to anyone who can find them.

They believe the turtle — one of 12 released as part of an experiment to monitor their behavior — was illegally captured and killed for its meat. Still, scientists want to retrieve the devices to learn more about the threatened sea creatures.

"We are interested in bringing closure to this case," said C. H. Diong, a Singaporean zoologist taking part in the study. "We are only interested in the science, not the legality. We don't want to frighten anyone."

The Olive Ridley turtle, which can grow up to 2.5 feet long and weigh nearly 100 pounds, had two satellite-tracking devices about the size of a cigarette packet attached to its shell.

One gave out a final signal several weeks ago from a port town on the southern tip of Sumatra island, while the other continues to transmit from the coastal town of Krui, about 149 miles away.

The 12 turtles from three different species were raised in captivity and released to see how they would adapt in the wild. Findings will help in efforts to protect the creatures.

Diong said early data suggested that the animals did well in their natural environment: They had not lost their ability to swim long distances or dive deeply, and were headed in the direction of other populations of their species.

"We put them out there and they knew instinctively that it was their home," he said. "It was great to see them swim off speedily without hesitation."

The reward offer for "information on and return of the two transmitters" has been passed to wildlife officials in Indonesia, who plan to post flyers around Krui.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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