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Several dozen sea turtles stabbed in remote Japanese isle

Inhabitants of the remote Japanese island of Kumejima have been puzzled finding at least 30 green sea turtles dead, with necks of many carcasses displaying stabbing wounds.

An eerie landscape of some 30 sea turtles strewn on the island’s beach revealed itself to the islanders following a low tide. Several turtles displayed stab wounds at the base of their necks, while others were also slashed in their flippers. Pictures released by a local wildlife preservation museum show the animals floating in shallow water.

The discovery prompted the police to launch an investigation into animal cruelty claims. At least one fishing operator confessed to having wounded the animals to remove them from fishing nets, the Mainichi news website reported.

“I disentangled some of the [turtles] and released them into the sea, but I couldn’t free [the] heavy ones so I stabbed them to get rid of them,” an unnamed fishing operator told a close source, said a report by the Mainichi.

Police officers were deployed to the scene last week, local media reported, although it is not immediately clear if any action has been taken.

Listed as an endangered species by Japanese authorities and global conservation groups, green sea turtles are known to frequent the seaweed and kelp beds off Kumejima. The island is located about 2,000 km south of the Japanese mainland.

Green sea turtles’ breeding season falls in late spring and early summer when the males arrive in offshore waters first and wait for the females to come to the beaches. While adult males can breed every year, females only breed every three to four years.

Although marine biologists and other workers from the island’s Sea Turtle Museum had rushed to the beach after the turtles were discovered, they arrived belatedly with most of the reptiles already dead.

An employee of the museum told The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s four largest newspapers, that they “have never seen anything like this before,” adding that “it is extremely difficult to process this.”

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