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  Yahoo News 23 May 07
Turtle's dinner table escape provides clues on habits

A giant sea turtle saved from the dinner table by a Chinese priest swam 3,000 kilometres into a sanctuary in Japan, providing researchers a valuable insight into the species travel habits.

The priest had carved a message onto the green sea turtle's shell which a Japanese conservation group used to trace its odyssey back to the province of Guangdong in southern China.

Through news reports, the group learned a Buddhist priest bought the turtle in January when it was about to be sold to a restaurant, then released it back into the sea after carving the date and name of his temple on its shell.

Earlier this month, the 120-kilogram (265-pound) female turtle swam ashore on one of Japan's Ogasawara islands in the Pacific Ocean, a journey of around 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles).

The turtle could not find enough sand to hide its eggs and two days later strayed into an area protected by the Japanese conservation group Everlasting Nature of Asia, where it laid 77 eggs.

"We found out for the first time that green sea turtles from Japan also travel and live in the waters off mainland China, which is important to know," said Hiroyuki Suganuma, chairman of the non-governmental group.

"It is actually not so rare to see turtles bearing a few Chinese characters on the shell," he told AFP. "Chinese people believe it is good luck to save the life of an animal and release it. But it was unusual to see so many characters, which provided us with a great lead to track down where she travelled."

China is a major consumer of turtles for food and folk medicine.

Related articles on Global: marine issues and sea turtles
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