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Rescue Center News

Joanne, whatʼs new at the Rescue Centre?

Our volunteer at the Rescue Centre Joanne Stournara updates us on the events of the week between 21th and 28st January 2012.

New arrival
On Monday afternoon (23 January 2012), a 61-kilo Caretta caretta named “Magdalena” arrived at the Rescue Centre from Amorgos, where she had been found floating close to the shore. Immediately upon arrival, she was taken for X-rays and given a drip and other first aid treatments, pending an examination by the veterinarian. She had no visible injuries and the X-rays showed that she had not ingested any hooks or other objects. Unfortunately, she abruptly died several hours later, most likely from natural causes.

Turtle Milestones
“Nancy”, who arrived at the Rescue Centre on 5 October from Evia with a head injury, has finally started to eat fish offered to her by hand. This is great news since it means her health is recovering, and hopefully she will soon be eating food on her own. If all goes well, she may be released this summer.

Turtle Update: “Costas”
“Costas” arrived at the Rescue Centre on 26 August 2010 from Evia. He was in very critical condition since one of his eyes had been brutally removed with a sharp object and the other was injured; he also had a neck injury. At first he was unable to eat on his own and had to be tubefed, but thanks to the patient, loving care of the RC volunteers, he gradually began to regain his strength and learned how to locate and eat food placed in his tank. (The two circular white spots visible on his carapace are for temporarily attaching small weights which help him swim properly while he is recovering.)

Once our veterinarian determines he is well enough, he will be moved to his new home in an aquarium in England, where he will be able to live out the rest of his life in peace and safety.

Feeding time
Making sure the turtles are fed is one of the priorities at the RC. There are three ways turtles are fed.

Turtles who are unable to eat by themselves are tubefed. A special mixture of fish and other nutritious items, including any medication which the veterinarian may have prescribed, are pureed and fed to the turtles four times a week.

Every morning, after the tanks have been cleaned, the turtles which can eat on their own are fed. The food is cut into the size appropriate for each turtle (small, medium, large, etc.), weighed so that the proper amount is given to them, and each piece is counted and recorded. Before putting the food into the tanks, any pieces which may not have been eaten the day before are counted, recorded, and discarded. This system provides a quick check on how well each turtle is eating.

In their natural environment, turtles find and eat their food on the sea floor. If they have a head injury or other problem which prevents them from diving, they are not able to reach their food. At the RC, turtles who have this problem but are otherwise well enough to eat are hand fed, i.e. pieces of fish are fed to them one at a time by volunteers. Some turtles prefer to eat several pieces and then rest, in which case volunteers give them some time and then return to continue the feeding later. Each turtle has his/her own eating style, which volunteers learn to accommodate.

Did you know...
Many animals besides sea turtles – such as whales, dolphins and even sea birds – are needlessly killed every year by driftnets and longlines, despite international laws prohibiting and/or regulating the use of these techniques.

Fishermen have always used nets to catch fish, but traditional nets were made of natural materials with a distinctive color and were relatively small in size. In addition, nets were traditionally used to catch schools of small fish. Modern driftnets, however, are a different story.

Today, driftnets are made of nylon, which makes them very strong and invisible underwater. These so-called ʽwalls of deathʼ are long enough to cover a distance of 50 km, and hang vertically 20-30m into the sea. Any fish or animal which happens to come in contact them is immediately trapped in the strong nylon and unable to break free. According to reports (see the articles listed below), 85% of the fish/animals caught in the nets are NOT the species the fisherman were after, so they are thrown away, either dead or dying.

Although driftnets have been banned by international authorities for almost a decade, some fishing fleets still use them. (Iʼm happy to say that the Greek fleet is not among them!)

There are lots of interesting articles on the internet regarding driftnet fishing, for example:
Illegal driftnetting in the Mediterranean
Ending bycatch and the squander of our seas
Oceana urges zero tolerance for driftnets in the Mediterranean in 2011

To end on an optimistic note, a friend sent me a link for a fantastic, inspiring video – with a very happy ending – about a whale trapped in a driftnet. Itʼs worth watching: http://www.flixxy.com:80/humpback-whale-gives-show-after-being-saved.htm

See you next week!

Joanne Stournara

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