A female adult eastern long-necked turtle arrived at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Wildlife Hospital on the 24th August 2015 with a severely fractured shell. The injury was most likely sustained after being run over by a motor vehicle.
The turtle was treated initially with antibiotics, pain relief and regular flushing of the wound site. The fracture was then stabilised by a combination of cable ties secured by plastic brackets and placement of a surgical wire. The turtle was kept in a dry cage with only intermittent access to water for swimming at feed times, to give her the best chance of healing. The wound had to be diligently cleaned before and after each swim to reduce the risk of infection.
X-rays were taken throughout the turtle’s hospitalisation period to ensure the fracture site was healing correctly. When the vets took the final x-ray before release they noticed the turtle was gravid ie. she had shelled eggs in her reproductive tract. Female turtles can develop eggs even if they have not mated and animals that have mated in the past may retain sperm for a prolonged period and develop fertilised eggs later.
After approximately three months at the Wildlife Hospital the veterinary team were satisfied that the fracture site had healed and her general health was good. The brackets were removed and she was released into a pond within the zoo grounds to allow her to find a suitable place to lay her eggs.