ORP Turtle Patient Update Issue 8|2020

Current patients: Heidi, Azura, Discovery, Xena, Ash & Harry

New Arrivals

Harry, Arrived 20 December 2020

Harry, an adult male hawksbill turtle patient at ORP Rescue Centre, Maldives. Image.
Harry in the tank at the Rescue Centre.

Harry is an adult male hawksbill turtle. He was found floating amongst a big pile of rubbish at a resort in the Alif Alif Atoll. He didn’t appear to have any external wounds, but he was floating with his back end up, very lethargic and didn’t have the strength to swim.

Harry undertook a long journey to get to us at the Rescue Centre, involving 2 speedboats and a supply boat over 48 hrs due to bad weather. He finally made it on the 20th of December. He will be undergoing a variety of tests to determine the cause of his unusual presentation.

Barnacles removed from turtle patient Harry's shell. Image.
A handful of barnacles that were removed from Harry’s shell.

However, before we could effectively x-ray Harry, we needed to remove a bunch of barnacles that had attached to Harry’s shell. We gave him a freshwater bath overnight to loosen them and the next morning we prised them off.

Harry is truly very special, being an adult male of a critically endangered species!

Blanc, Arrived 17 December, Deceased 19 December 2020

Ghost net victim Blanc, juvenile olive ridley. Image.
Blanc when she arrived at the Rescue Centre

Little Blanc was a juvenile olive ridley found at Cheval Blanc Randheli Resort in Noonu Atoll, entangled in debris with a piece of line hanging out her mouth that was presumed to be attached to a fish hook. It had evidently been there quite a while, as it had worn away at one corner of her mouth, exposing the bone of her jaw.

Dr Minnie got her transfered to the Rescue Centre and performed a variety of diagnostics to see what was going on. Blanc did turn out to have a massive hook lodged at the base of her oesophagus, as well as a variety of other small injuries and mild constriction wounds to both front flippers. She received supportive fluids, pain relief, antibiotics and was prepped for surgery to remove the hook and stitch up her wounds.

X-ray showing fish hook lodged in turtle patient Blanc's oesophagus. Image.
X-ray showing the fish hook lodged in Blanc’s oesophagus

Unfortunately, although the challenging surgery went well, Blanc failed to recover from her anaesthetic. The Rescue Centre team stayed with her, breathing for her, monitoring her heart beat, performing physio, lubricating her eyes, and providing other supportive care for over 48hrs, but we were unable to rouse her.
We wanted to share her story, even if the outcome wasn’t what he hoped for. At least she was able to pass peacefully here rather then suffering a painful fate out there.

Ash, Arrived 27 November 2020

Beautiful hawksbill turtle patinet Ash. Image.
The beautiful Ash.

Ash’s arrival has certainly generated quite the buzz! It is not only her diminutive size and beautiful shell that had us interested, but the fact that she has become a stark reminder of the plastic pollution crisis.

Plastic pieces collected from hawksbill turtle pateint Ash's feces. Image.
Some of the plastic pieces found in Ash’s feces.

A few days after she arrived in late November, following ghost gear entanglement that had already claimed her right front flipper, she began passing large quantities of plastic in her faeces. There was a shocking variety, from plastic bags to hard and sharp container pieces, to netting, to cellophane and all other kinds in between, including a piece of plastic twine as long as she was! Luckily it all seems to be passing through without a hitch, but it really could have gone very differently.

Once everything is out of her system, which should be in the next few weeks, we can release her onto a local reef where she can eat sponges to her hearts content and hopefully grow to be very large and very old.

The Resident Patients

Xena – Arrived 1 November 2020

Turtle patient Xena, an olive ridley ghost net victim. Image.
Xena in her tank.

Xena has been with us just over a month now, having previously been at another rehabilitation centre for a year. She arrived very underweight and despite an improving appetite, is struggling to put weight on.

For a period of 3 weeks, she refused anything but fresh crab, meaning Dr Minnie and Jinaad were out on the beach every night in the dark catching them for her! She has recently had a big upturn in her appetite, chowing down on tuna and shrimp, but it is hit and miss.

She had some follow up diagnostics tests, such as repeat blood sampling, x-rays and ultrasound, to compare to when she initially arrived. This is important to help track her progress and monitor for any changes. Her ultrasound has flagged up a few further abnormalities, such as fluid pockets in abnormal areas, so investigations are ongoing to try and determine the cause and how we can resolve it.

Discovery – Arrived 7th February 2020

Turtle patient Disco on his tank. Image.
Disco saying hi.

Discovery continue to be a motivated and feisty little turtle, who, despite her significant buoyancy issues, tries to dive all the time and is always active. Unfortunately, her recent follow up x-rays showed that she does have some changes to her lung tissue, ones that may take a while to improve.

In the meantime, to help her gain more purchase in the water, Dr Minnie and our intern Jinaad have been devising a weight belt to help pull her down on her left side only, as it is her left side which sticks up higher in the water. This will help level her out, as she is quite lopsided and will hopefully make her life easier while she recovers.

The initial version didn’t go so well, as she was determined to get her flipper under it an kick it off, so it is quite literally back to the drawing board. She is still the messiest eater we’ve ever seen, and picky to boot! Some days all fish is the best, while others only the finest squid or shrimp is good enough. She certainly keeps us on our toes. She enjoys sea swims, where we take her out to the reef to look at all the fish and marine life.

Azura – Arrived 2nd April 2019

Turtle patient Azura in teh big tank. Image.
Azura enjoyng life in the big tank.

Azura has had a difficult 2 months, having been diagnosed with an infection of the bone around her elbow joint on her remaining right flipper. Dr Minnie noticed that she stopped trying to dive as much on her sea swims, which after starting to dive down to 7 metres, was quite unexpected and disappointing! She realised it was because she wasn’t using her flipper, and a quick x-ray confirmed this unfortunate finding.

However, after starting on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, she bounced back incredibly well. She started to use the flipper more almost immediately, and then after a 2 week break, she was back sea swimming and attempting to dive regularly again, so we are very happy with her progress.

Once her antibiotic course is finished, we are hopeful she will be back down to 7 metres and maybe even beyond! Luckily for us, her demeanour and appetite has never wavered, she is as hungry and as active as ever!

Heidi – Arrived 21st April 2018

Turtle patient Heidi enjoying one of his sea swims. Image.
Heidi enjoying a sea swim.

Heidi continues to be a lovely, gentle and unflappable turtle. Although having said that, when he had to temporarily share a tank with Disco, he tried to bite her through the barrier! He wasn’t quite so chilled out then!

He loves going on his once weekly sea swims, where he glides through the lagoon eating coral and grass and whatever else he can get his beak on. He remains a favourite amongst all the ORP staff and guests, with his keenness to come up and say hello, combined with his incredible resilience and swimming ability.

Moving into the new year, our hope is to finally get him to an aquarium, where he can have the space and the environment he needs and deserves.