Our volunteer at the Rescue Center Joanne Stournara updates us on the events in March-April 2018.
“If we were logical, the future would be bleak, indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
Despite these months being considered as part of the non-peak season, there are still plenty of things happening at the Rescue Center. The turtle-patients who have been receiving treatment over the winter still need their daily care, and new turtles, most with severe head injuries deliberately caused by human action, arrive regularly. Everyone at the RC is doing a fantastic job, putting in many hours of hard work to care for the turtles and to keep things running smoothly.
“Nemo”, a tiny Caretta caretta, arrived at the RC from Lakki (Leros) on 7 March 2018. “Nemo’s” carapace length is only 10 cm, and he weighs only 15 grams! The turtle had been found on the beach by some children. Because of the high winds in the area at that time, it is likely that the turtle was washed ashore. “Nemo” had no visible injuries, but was very weak. The local veterinarian was called, who informed the RC. The vet gave the turtle first aid and kept it overnight, then prepared a transport box with hot water bottles, etc to keep “Nemo” warn during the 10-hour trip by boat to Athens. “Nemo” is doing very well – X-rays showed that he had no lung infection or internal injuries, and he is a candidate for release when the weather permits. Many thanks to everyone on Leros involved in rescuing and saving the life of this turtle.
“Philippos-Alexandros”, a loggerhead whose carapace is 54 centimeters long and who weighs 18 kilos, arrived at the RC on 20 March 2018 from nearby Agia Marina (Saronikos, Attica). The turtle was found by two children taking a walk on the beach with their mother. The turtle’s body was covered with many barnacles, and he was weak and not very responsive. X-rays revealed that the turtle had ingested 3 long-line hooks, which had travelled through his intestines and were close to the cloaca. He was given a laxative and was able to pass the hooks naturally. A positive sign is that the very next day, he started eating on his own! Hopefully he will recover his strength and health and be able to be reintroduced into the sea. Many thanks to the family who helped rescue and save the life of this turtle.
“Yoshi” arrived at the RC on 13 April 2018 from nearby Varkiza. The turtle, whose carapace length is 65.5 cm and who weighs 36 kilos, was found and rescued by Aggelos, who was out on his boat when he spotted the turtle floating on the surface, covered with barnacles and obviously in trouble. He immediately contacted ARCHELON and brought the turtle to the beach so that it could be picked up by the RC volunteers. “Yoshi” was found to have a severe lung infection, which is being treated. He still does not eat on his own, but is active and starting to dive. Many thanks to Aggelos for rescuing and helping save the life of this turtle … and for becoming an official member of the ARCHELON Rescue Network.
The above three reports involving responsible people who care about protecting endangered sea turtles are inspiring and give us hope for the future. Unfortunately, the next reports involve humans who deliberately injure the animals.
“Maria”, a loggerhead whose carapace length is 69.5 cm and who weighs 43 kilos, arrived from Souda, (Crete) on 17 April 2018 with severe head injuries deliberately caused by human action. A volunteer from the animal welfare organization EKPAZ in Chania was informed about the turtle, and drove all the way from Rethymno to Souda to pick up the turtle. He then transported the turtle to the port at Chania to send the turtle to the RC - a 9-hour boat trip. “Maria’s” injuries are very severe: both eyes are affected, and the right side of her lower jaw is completely broken. The jaw muscles are also injured. Unfortunately, she is not doing well because of the extent of her injuries. She is being given an anesthetic to help relieve the pain, and had to be kept out of water for several days because she was bleeding. She is not interested in eating at all. At the moment her size is a benefit, but her condition is a critical one. Many thanks to everyone involved in rescuing and trying to save the life of this turtle.
“Echo” arrived at the RC on 22 April 2018 from Aianteio (Salamina). The turtle had been sighted two weeks earlier, but it was not possible to capture her then. The loggerhead, whose carapace length is 63.5 cm and who weighs 38 kilos, is totally covered with barnacles and algae, indicating she was inactive for a long time. At the RC, she was kept in fresh water for two days to remove the barnacles; after she was cleaned and it was possible to actually see her body, it was found that she had a non-recent, severe head injury. She can’t dive properly, but she is able to eat on her own. Her head injury is very deep, probably the cause of her buoyancy issues. Many thanks to the Salamina port police for their help in rescuing and transporting this turtle to the RC.
One thing that has become obvious to those of us who have worked with sea turtles at the RC: they are built to survive! Some of them manage to overcome extremely serious injuries and against all odds recover their health well enough to be reintroduced back into the sea. Unfortunately, not all are that lucky.
“Priamos”, a loggerhead who had arrived from Syros on 14 February 2018 with a severe head injury, died as a result of his injuries on 2 April 2018. Despite efforts to save him, the turtle was unable to digest any food, vomiting it together with sand.
“Stratos”, a loggerhead whose carapace length was 31.5 cm and who weighed 3 kilos, arrived at the RC from Kyllini (Pelopponese) on 8 April 2018, which was the day Eastern Orthodox Easter is celebrated. When he was found, fishing line could be seen protruding from both his mouth and cloaca. This is always a very dangerous sign because fishing line causes severe damage to the turtle’s digestive system. He was very weak, and his plastron was soft. Besides the damage caused by the ingested fishing line, sand was also found in the bottom of his tank, another dangerous situation since sand can also enter a turtle’s lungs, leading to other problems. Unfortunately, he died as a result of his injuries on 13 April 2018.
“Cavos” arrived at the RC from Nea Makri (Attica) on 27 April 2018. The turtle, whose carapace length was 65.0 cm and who weighed 25 kilos, had a head injury deliberately caused by human action. The turtle was very weak and covered in algae and barnacles, indicating he had been inactive for some time. Unfortunately, he was found too late to be saved, and died shortly after his arrival.
Did you know...
Some turtle species (leatherbacks and hawksbills) produce ‘false eggs’. Along with the ‘real’ eggs containing embryos, smaller ‘false eggs’ have been found in nests of these species. According to information in an article I came across when looking for something else, “The function of the false eggs is currently unknown, but it must have some kind of evolutionary advantage. Some hypotheses include keeping moisture high in the nest or maybe even distracting predators.” The site has some interesting information and pictures about sea turtle diseases, and has a great picture of a hatchling with an “egg tooth” – see for yourself at http://nmlc.org/2011/07/sea-turtles-part-2-disease-predators-and-conservation/