By Sean Augustin
KUALA LUMPUR - Islanders on Pulau Tioman in Pahang, heaved a sigh of relief after their mascot, Jo, a blind green turtle returned unharmed, three days after she went missing.
Jo, who was born without eyes, went missing on Aug 2. It is believed that intruders had released her from the Tengku Arif Temenggong (TAT) Turtle Sanctuary into the ocean.
Fortunately for her, kayaking instructors spotted the 20kg turtle swimming in circles some 500m south from her site.
"The first thing that ran through my mind was why would anyone want to do this? Maybe those who released Jo probably thought they were doing her a favour by releasing her back into the wild.
"But a blind turtle is unable to visually locate food in the wild. She would eventually starve to death," TAT co-founder Datin Seri Rowena Baker said yesterday, adding that she sought help from villagers and government agencies to help locate Jo, and even sent an SOS on her Facebook.
Baker said they were now providing a larger and deeper tank, and tightening security at their project site.
Hatched at the sanctuary in 2006, Jo thrived under the care of John Amos and his wife, Zana, who "adopted" her.
She was later placed under the care of two TAT volunteers, Charlie Fisher and Tom Weubbens.
Now a healthy four-your old, Jo captured the hearts of the locals and quickly became a celebrity as well as a mascot for turtle conservation on the island.
Baker said that Jo was something of a miracle "child" as blind turtles do not survive very long. She added that Jo receives about 10,000 visitors annually, who also come to learn about the project.