Injured sea turtles nurtured back to health

By Mariam Digges

Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium Aids Sick Turtles Back to Health. Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium
Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium Aids Sick Turtles Back to Health. Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium
Five sick sea turtles have been nurtured back to health and re-released into the ocean in the Bay of Islands.

The turtles had undergone rehabilitation at Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium in Auckland from a period of five months to two years.

Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium curator, Andrew Christie says, “Many turtles are found after being washed up on New Zealand shores with gut impactions from ingesting plastics or being tangled in rope, so it’s important to provide a place for these often endangered animals to become healthy again.

“We treat the turtles using x-rays to identify the cause of their poor health, and administer fluids and antibiotics to fight infection and dehydration. This year most turtles that have come to us have swallowed plastics and lost the ability to dive for food. We give them laxatives to help them pass the obstruction, but it takes a number of months.”

A green turtle named G3 was found suffering from cold chock and gut impaction from swallowing synthetic rope. After being fed G3 paraffin oil to help pass the blockage, G3 (as he was thereafter named) was nursed back to health.

The turtles are kept at SEA LIFE Aquarium in specially-created holding tanks until the sea conditions are suitable for their safe release (generally around February each year). This means the turtles have the best chance of survival and remaining healthy after release. 

But before rejoining their natural habitat, the turtles are tagged, and this year, one Green Turtle’s journey back into the ocean was even tracked via satellite, to help with future studies.

Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium set up its Turtle Rehabilitation Programme in 1991 and has nursed 72 sick turtles, including many endangered species such as the Hawksbill Turtle, back to health. 

But, as Amdrew Christie says, we can all play a part in ensuring the health and safety of these turtles, too.

“Please make sure you dispose of plastics properly. Turtles may mistake this for food and swallow them unknowingly,” advises Christie.

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