Marine debris puts three endangered turtles in Intensive Care at Taronga

Marine debris puts three endangered turtles in Intensive Care at Taronga

#Taronga Zoo Sydney

Posted on 02nd February 2015 by Media Relations

Three endangered sea turtles are currently receiving care in Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital suffering from severe injuries caused by marine debris. 

A juvenile Green Sea Turtle is recovering in the Wildlife Intensive Care unit after being rescued with hooks lodged in its mouth, flipper and in its gut. There was also a large amount of fishing line throughout the turtle’s intestines.

Taronga Wildlife Hospital Manager, Libby Hall, said: “A lot of the time people mostly think of the damage the fishing hooks do, but where there’s a hook, there’s a line. Fishing line is very strong and cuts its way through the digestive system of marine animals, which has potentially fatal consequences.”

“The line seems to be all gone now so we’re quite hopeful this turtle will be okay. We’re hoping it will make a full recovery and be able to be released back to the wild very soon.”

A Green Turtle and a Hawksbill turtle are also receiving care after swallowing large quantities of plastic and coloured balloons. The Green Turtle was just a tiny palm-sized hatchling when it was admitted to hospital. Sea Turtle’s main diet in the wild consists of sea urchins and jelly fish, so it’s suspected that the turtles mistook the balloons for food. Balloons block the gut and can lead to the animal dying of starvation.

“Balloons are often very bright in colour and are one of the most common plastic items that we see in the gut of turtles. Nearly every balloon that is let go ends up in the ocean and due to their bright colours they very attractive to all marine life, not just turtles. Balloons are a big issue. “Hawksbill Turtles especially like to eat brightly coloured sponges, so they are particularly susceptible to balloons floating in the ocean,” said Libby.

Both turtles have so far passed a lot of plastic and are recovering well. The hatchling still has some growing to do before it can be released, however the adult Hawksbill is set to be released back to the wild once veterinarians are confident all the plastic is gone from its digestive system.

Taronga supports the Take 3 initiative, which encourages all beach goers and anyone near a waterway to pick up three items of rubbish to stop plastic and debris ending up in our oceans. It is also important for people to properly dispose of all fishing line and hooks so they don’t end up hurting sea turtles and other marine life.