Turtle Patient 210: Zeliya, Sub-Adult Olive Ridley

Turtle patient Zeliya smiling at the camera. Image.

Zeliya was found entangled in a ghost net by the staff at Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa in North Malé Atoll

The Vitals

Admission Date: 22 April 2023
Patient Number: 210
Rescue Location: North Malé Atoll
Reason: Found entangled
Transport Method: Speedboats & seaplane
Status: Released 04 February 2024

Species: Olive ridley
Scientific Name: Lepidochelys olivacea
Sex: Unknown
Age: Sub-Adult
Length: 57.1 cm
Weight: 20.55 kg

The Adoptive Parents

Zeliya has kindly been adopted by Alaida, Marina Ling, Marielle, by Cassandra & Ahmed, Heidi, Lena & Harald, Jenny Crowe, for Lyonel Marcus, by Patrick Stoll, for Kelley by Joelle Beauchemin, by Nadine Richburg, Adriaan Fietje, by Mariana Ling, by Randy & Jacklyn, by Julie Holland, by Gaby & Christian Maier, by Alex Varga for Mega, by Brandn for Kayla, by Heather for Lexi & Cameron, by Daniel for Rebecca, by Kathy for Wendy, and by Thomas Marth for Manuela.

Zeliya’s Story

Zeliya has quite deep ligature injuries to her right front and back flippers, with bone exposure on both. There is also an extensive laceration around her neck caused by the ghost net and a perforation near her right thigh area (called the inguinal region).

Both Zeliya’s blood-work and X-rays show signs of infection, so we have started her on supportive therapy and pain relief, hoping to stabilise her before surgery to clean up her wounds.

Zeliya has started to eat small pieces of fish and is able to move all flippers while swimming in the ICU tank.

1 May 2023
On April 26th Zeliya underwent a big surgery to clean and debride all her wounds. The procedure went well, all tissues looked healthy after it and she recovered well. Zeilya has now started to eat small pieces of fish and prawns and has been moved to a larger tank. She still has full movement on all her flippers, and we are hoping we can salvage all of them.

14th June 2023
Zeliya’s ligature injuries have been responding well to treatment and are healing nicely. She underwent several debridement surgeries to help clean her wounds and with each procedure the progression was substantial. She is still receiving aggressive therapy for a bone infection she developed on her right shoulder. Other than that, Zeliya has started eating more consistently now, although she continues to prefer prawns and crabs as her staple diet.

9th July 2023
Zeliya’s injuries have almost fully healed now as we continue with the cold laser therapy. Her blood work is normalising and we are using aggressive therapy to tackle the bone infection on her right shoulder. Zeliya has been very active in her tank and gaining steady weight. We have now started her on Targeted External Weight Therapy to assist her with her diving issues.

13 August 2023
Zeliya has been super active in her tank and we have started her on dive training during feeding sessions. She is also on Targeted External Weight Therapy. Her bone infection hasn’t progressed further and appears to be under control. Zeliya has gained a bit more range of motion on her right shoulder too!

12 September 2023
Zeliya has made the most progress this past month out of all the patients, making us very proud. When we observed her attempting to dive on her own, we decided to  move her to our biggest tank to provide her with extra space. She responded really well and started diving the following day. She is improving with each day, and now spends most of her timing doing large laps around the tank while submerged. She is finally able to rest on the bottom as well. Zeliya is slowly regaining mobility on her right shoulder as we continue with her tailored dive training which includes a combination of photobiomodulation therapy, external targeted weight therapy and physiotherapy.

10 October 2023
Zeliya made great progress again in the last month, diving well and spending time foraging and resting at the bottom. She even managed to dive all the way down in our medium tank, where she was placed briefly as her large tank was being cleaned. The mobility of her right shoulder is slowly improving. She can be seen moving it slightly while swimming and a lot more during feeding. We are using dive training, photobiomodulation therapy, Targeted External Weight Therapy and physiotherapy in a combined approach to help her regain full use of the flipper at the affected shoulder.

14 November 2023
Zeliya is now very comfortably resting on the bottom at night and loves to swim long strokes along the lower section of the big tank. We have started reducing the weights applied under her Targeted External Weight Therapy programme (TEWT) and have been very pleased with her progress. Nonetheless we continue to provide holistic treatment through the use of cold laser therapy, physiotherapy and TEWT to improve mobility on her right shoulder. Zeliya’s blood work has been clear for several weeks, so we have discontinued all her medication and are now keeping a close eye on it to ensure that the infection does not return.

12 December 2023
We are slowly reducing the weights applied to Zeliya’s carapace under her Targeted External Weight Therapy programme (TEWT), and she continues to show normal diving behaviour at each step. Zeliya has been spending time doing laps around her big tank and scrubbing herself on the environmental enrichment device placed in her tank. Her blood work is within normal range. Given the reduced range of motion on her right front flipper, which had been badly injured from the ghost net, we gave Zeliya another dose of platelet enriched plasma (PRP) into her ligature injury to promote healing and neurological restructuring. 

8 January 2024
We are steadily decreasing the weights applied to Zeliya’s carapace under her External Targeted Weight Therapy programme, and she consistently displays normal diving behaviour with each adjustment. Zeliya’s blood work remains within the normal range, and there has been notable improvement in the range of motion of her right front flipper.

4 February 2024
Zeliya’s wounds are now fully healed and she has been off all medical therapy, including the Targeted External Weight Therapy, for three weeks. During this time, she has exhibited normal behaviour, diving effortlessly, eating with a voracious appetite, and indulging in her trademark long naps at the bottom of her tank. Following a comprehensive physical examination, which included full blood work, X-rays and neurological assessment, Zeliya received a clean bill of health and declared ready to go back to her ocean home!

While her right front flipper still exhibits reduced mobility due to the extensive neurological damage it sustained, progress is evident although gradual. Such injuries require extended rehabilitation, a process that will continue naturally in the wild. With three fully functional flippers at her disposal, Zeliya possesses sufficient dexterity for survival, and her right front flipper will steadily improve over time—making the stresses of captivity seem less worthwhile.

Given Zeliya’s susceptibility to stress, her release happened off the beach at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu in the early morning where there were no people around and she did beautifully. While there wasn’t a live stream of the release, we did video the event and have share it on our social media channels.