24 June 2013

Green turtle’s condition improves – an update

Michael Farquhar

Earlier this month, we received a large green turtle that had been washed up on Noordhoek beach. The turtle was not in a very good condition, and the experienced Aquarium team made every effort to assist the animal. Read the original post here. Below is an update on the turtle’s condition.

The turtle is doing really well, eating on her own and moving around. All photos Michael Farquhar

Last week was amazing from a turtle perspective.

It began with us having to move the large green turtle into a larger pool because she had become quite active in the small pool she was initially put in. And we needed to start force-feeding her to ensure that she didn’t waste away.

The prospect of force-feeding a large (75kg), active turtle was already a daunting task because it would involve forcing her to open her mouth and then pushing a tube down her oesophagus and into her stomach so that a fishy gruel could be pumped in. Then, we’d have to keep her in a raised position for an hour or so to prevent her from easily regurgitating the food. The small pool was going to make this even harder. So we moved her and allowed her to settle down overnight.

Kevin, who looks after the turtles, had a terrible fright when he arrived at work in the morning because he couldn’t see her in the pool. This sounds ridiculous, I know, but when larger turtles arrive for rehab they are normally not in a great condition, and for some reason they spend all their time on the surface, which would not be the case for a larger turtle in the wild (they only really go to the surface for another breath). On closer inspection, Kevin realised that she was sleeping at the bottom, a great sign.

The second green turtle to be washed ashore and brought to the Aquarium this month

Things looked even better after the daunting task of force-feeding went off smoothly and she didn’t regurgitate her food. The really amazing thing happened the next day, though, when she was offered a baby squid by Kevin in a half-hearted attempt to prevent him having to force-feed her again that day. She ate the squid (stuffed with seaweed to make sure she got her greens) and four more straight after it. She hasn’t looked back since and is currently being fed three times a day. Her blood parameters are all looking better and the blocked nostril she had has also cleared. She is still on antibiotics and being monitored by Georgina (our vet) several times a day, but at the moment we are all very hopeful that she is over the worst of it.

But that’s not all (I am starting to wonder if vets perhaps just attract this stuff!). We received another green turtle this week that washed up at Melkbos. Fortunately, given that we don’t have much spare space, this one is only 5kg (50cm carapace length). The new arrival was very weak but also seems to be improving with rehydration and warm water. It was taken through to Dr Rena Cotton’s practice in Sea Point on Friday for X-rays. Georgina was very happy to see nothing obviously wrong on the X-ray, so we are again hopeful that its condition will improve over the next few weeks.

Find out more about the Two Oceans Aquarium’s turtle rehabilitation efforts here.

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