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An endangered Green Turtle which was entangled underwater in an anchor rope in Sydney’s Pittwater has been rehabilitated and released by Taronga Zoo staff today.

The 24 kilogram turtle was bought to Taronga Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital at the end of January after being found by local residents tangled in an anchor rope more than eight metres under the water. Although still very active, the turtle which is thought to be female, also had a length of fishing line hanging out of its mouth and wrapped around its right front flipper.

An initial health check on arrival at Taronga Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital confirmed by x-ray that the turtle had swallowed a fishing hook which was deep down in the oesophagus, connected to a massive tangled ball of fishing line.

Taronga Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Larry Vogelnest, said: “Fishing debris (discarded or lost hooks, line, nets, sinkers) can be lethal for marine animals. Not only can the line do irreparable damage as it moves through the body cavity but any attached fishing hooks can kill the animal.”
“Tragically after swallowing fish hooks and line, many turtles starve to death due to infection as the metal hooks penetrate their stomachs or the line causes impaction or damage in the intestines. “
“Many marine animals also swallow rubbish such as plastic or rubber balloons which also cause impaction of the intestines and death. This is why it is so important we must dispose of used fishing equipment and rubbish responsibly,” said Larry.
The operation to remove the mass of line and hook was a lengthy one. It took nearly three hours to get the rubbish out of the Green Turtle through an incision in its neck, allowing Taronga’s expert veterinary team access to the oesophagus. The turtle was then placed in the Zoo’s intensive care unit and received on-going care, pain relief and antibiotics.

Slowly the turtle was introduced to Taronga’s rehabilitation pool and offered food. Now, just two months after the operation the turtle will be released back into the open ocean much to the delight of Taronga staff and the local residents who hired a boat to watch her plunge back into the wild.

“We knew she was a fighter as there was evidence from an old boat strike wound on her shell that she had been in strife before, but even we were pleased at how well she recovered. After caring for injured wildlife, it is so satisfying when we can get them back to full health and release them back into their natural habitat.”

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“This female is coming close to breeding age, and we hope that from this point forward she will go onto live a full, injury-free life and contribute to the survival of her species,” said Larry.

Green Turtles can live for 80 years and reach sexual maturity in their 30s.

There are seven species of marine turtles in the world and six occur in Australian waters. All six species have suffered population declines as a result of pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, plastic bag ingestion, depletion of food stocks, boat-related injuries, loss of shoreline breeding areas and egg predation by species such as foxes and dogs.
Marine turtles are recognised internationally as a species of conservation concern and are  listed in the World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Animals.

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