Turtle Patient Update Issue 6 | 2022



Pickle – Arrived 10 December 2021, Tagged & Released 23 May 2022

Pickle, tagged and ready for release.

Towards the end of last month, Pickle’s flippers appeared to improve. Her bloodwork and X-rays also came back clear. Based on her general good health, we decided it was time for Pickle to be released. A satellite tag, identical to that of Autumn’s, was secured on her carapace the evening before her release.

On World Turtle day, after ensuring that Pickle was comfortable with the tag placement, we released her from the beach at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu in Baa Atoll. We have been receiving data from Pickle’s satellite tag, and we are happy to report that she has gone a good distance – in fact, Pickle, in just over two days, achieved the distance that Autumn covered in one week!

Map of Pickle's journey since being released with a satellite tag.
Pickle’s journey between 23 May and 7 June 2022.

Pickled first travelled slightly south before turning east. In the first 2 weeks since his release, she has travelled 797 km at an average speed of 49.8 km per day (Autumn travelled at an average speed of 35.8 km per day). Her deepest dives are clocking in at between 81 and 90 metres. Just like Autumn, Pickle has headed to the south of Sri Lanka.

New Arrivals

Gus – Arrived 30 May 2022

Turtle patient Gus, green, profile. Image.

Gus is a sub-adult green turtle that was found entangled in a ghost net at Conrad Rangali in South Ari Atoll. Gus suffered entanglement wounds at both front flippers and also had an exposed bone on his left front flipper. Unfortunately, we could not save the left one and had to amputate it. The surgery was successful and Gus has spent the last week recovering. Our team spotted him nibbling on a piece of seagrass the very next day.

Gus also defecated a large amount of plastic and threads, likely from ghost nets. He does appear a little subdued, but considering the strain on his body, both from entanglement and plastic ingestion, it is to be expected. Thankfully, Gus has been happily chowing down his food when hand fed.

Finihaka – Arrived 25 May 2022

Turtle patient Finihaka in the tank at the rescue centre. Image.

Finihaka, a juvenile hawksbill, was found floating by Rosie, the resident marine biologist at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, while she was hosting a snorkeling trip with the resort guests. There were two huge shells (the size of a human palm) attached to Finihaka – one on the neck and another on the left marginal scute of the carapace. In addition, one scute on her carapace was almost ripped off, cracked and had missing edges.

Hawksbill turtle patient Finihaka with two large shells stuck on her carapace. Image.
Finihaka with two large shells stuck on her carapace.

Finihaka was flat, dull, and weak when she arrived at the Rescue Centre. We immediately put her on support care and monitored her condition closely. To our delight, Finihaka became energetic and bright within a couple of days, swimming gracefully in her tank, creating lots of excitement and curiosity amongst the guests.

The parasitic organisms from her plastron are almost gone, except for some deeply embedded ones on her skin. The scute on her carapace that was almost ripped off thankfully remains intact on the carapace. We will focus on getting her to put on weight and once she is fit enough, Finihaka will be ready for the wild.

Basil – Arrived 15 May 2022

Basil with his flipper raised in the rescue centre tank. Image.

Basil, a subadult olive ridley, was found entangled in a ghost net by his front flippers at Coco Bodu Hithi Resort in North Malé Atoll. Luckily, most of his wounds appear to be superficial.

Basil used both his front flippers when he first arrived at the Rescue Centre, however, he gradually stopped using his right front flipper – likely due to discomfort from swelling. We have been doing wound drainage for him on a daily basis, which has helped in managing the swelling. He appears to use his flipper much better after each drainage session, however, the range of motion does still remain inconsistent. Despite the struggle with his right front flipper, Basil has been eating and diving well.

Pepe – Arrived 13 May 2022

Turtle patient Pepe with an exposed wound on her right flipper. Image.

Pepe, also a sub-adult olive ridley, was found at Maayafushi Resort in Ari Atoll with her front right flipper and neck entangled in ghost gear. By the time she arrived at the Rescue Centre, the affected flipper was almost hanging off her right shoulder and therefore had to be trimmed off. Fortunately, the entanglement wound at her neck was superficial. We administered antibiotics and pain relief to Pepe, and luckily, by her second day, she started eating prawns.

Pepe also has some buoyancy issues, which we are monitoring, and she has an infection in her right front flipper stump. We are taking special care to ensure tank hygiene and have increased the frequency of wound cleaning to stay on top of the infection. Thankfully, her wound from the trimming seems to be healing well.

The Resident Patients

Jazeera – Arrived 24 April 2022

Closeup of turtle patient Jazeera, mouth open. Image.

Jazeera’s surgical site seems to be healing well. We removed his stitches two weeks ago, and he has continued to eat and dive well. Jazeera has quite a personality – he finishes his food in seconds, and, surprisingly, is the fastest swimmer amongst all our sea turtle patients.

Hopefully, we will be able to release Jazeera once he finishes his course of antibiotics.

Crwban – Arrived 8 March 2022

Turtle patient Crwban closeup. Image.

Earlier last month, Crwban continued to show positive buoyancy at rest, which could be normal behavior, given his age. He is however able to fight the buoyancy to get down to the bottom of the tank for food using his flipper movements. In fact, just last week we saw him actively dive for freshly caught crabs, so we are hopeful that with dedicated training, Crwban will be able to overcome his buoyancy.

The good news is that there was no abnormality detected in his most recent X-rays and his white blood cell counts too dropped to within normal limits mid last month. We have put Crwban on dive training for his buoyancy control, and are also planning on taking him out for swims.

Leonardo – Arrived 14 February 2022

Turtle patient Leonardo closeup. Image.

We stopped Leonardo’s buoy training temporarily this week after he ingested a husk string from the buoy and defecated it. We are looking into re-designing the buoy to reduce the risk of ingestion.

In other news, we are delighted to see Leo make good progress with his diving. Earlier last month, he started diving deeper during feeding sessions, and even moved on to diving voluntarily without encouragement. Towards the end of the month, Leo was spotted resting at the bottom of the tank comfortably. We also observed him reach for his food at different depths in the water column, exhibiting perfect dive control.

Despite this tremendous improvement, Leo gradually began losing functionality of his right front flipper. Repeat radiography and bloodwork revealed a degeneration of the bone at the right front flipper, which had been earlier diagnosed as a fungal origin. We immediately initiated medical therapy and will continue to monitor Leo’s right front flipper closely for changes.

Kalo – Arrived 20 January 2022

Turtle pateint Kalo admiring his own refelction. Image.

Similar to Leonardo, we stopped the buoy training for Kalo due to the possibility of foreign body ingestion. He was otherwise making improvements with his diving, although it was limited to his feeding times. Over much of last month, Kalo hadn’t shown any voluntary diving attempts so we transferred him to to the Rehabilitation Centre at One&Only Reethi Rah, to ensure he had greater room to practice his diving in the big tank there.

Once at the Rehabilitation Center, Kalo took a while to resume his feeding, and as of last week he has slowly been eating mussels, lobster heads, and prawns. Just last week, Kalo began sitting lower in the water and has now been actively trying to dive with each new day, so we hope it won’t be long before he is ready to be released!

Tibby – Arrived 26 July 2021

Turtle patient Tibby in her tank. Image.

Tibby was transferred from the Rehabilitation Centre at One&Only Reethi Rah back to the Rescue Center as she had not been eating for a week and therefore required a thorough diagnostic.

She seemed a little upset at first but was eventually found resting comfortably at the bottom of the tank within a day. Once Tibby adjusts to her new environment, we will schedule a health check-up for her!

Heidi – Arrived 21st April 2018

Turtle patient Heidi swimming in his tank. Image.

Last month Heidi helped us pilot some new satellite tags we are trying. He looked very depressed with the pilot tag placement and did not dive when he was taken out for a swim. The stress behaviours gradually diminished after the removal of tag within 48 hours from placement.

Now, for the great great news – Heidi’s travel permit is finally ready! We’ll be working closely with the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth to organise Heidi’s transport from the Maldives to his forever home in a much larger tank in the aquarium. In Plymouth he will become an ambassador for other turtles who suffer entanglement in ghost nets all around the world.