Wildlife organisations come together to rescue Green Turtle
A very spe-shell visitor has popped into Adelaide Zoo for some rest and recuperation.
Last week, teams from Zoos SA, the Department for Environment and Water, the Wildlife Welfare Organisation SA Inc. (WWO) and RSPCA SA came together to help a Green Turtle, who was discovered stranded on Middleton Beach.
After local volunteers, residents, and wildlife experts from the WWO in Goolwa helped the exhausted marine reptile on the beach, it was taken to the Adelaide Bird and Exotics Vet Centre to be assessed before coming to Adelaide Zoo to be cared for by the veterinary team.
Weighing in at 82.5kg and confirmed as female, the turtle has been affectionately named ‘Paddy’ by her carers at the zoo because she is a Green Turtle and she arrived at the zoo on 16 March – the day before St Patrick’s Day.
Zoos SA’s Veterinary Nurse and Hospital Manager, Dianne Hakof, said since arriving at the zoo, Paddy has been getting stronger each day.
“We often have wildlife emergency cases come through the Animal Health Centre, it was quite unusual for us to have a marine animal arrive but very exciting!” she said.
“When she arrived, our veterinary team did a full health check and recorded her weight.
“She was in pretty good shape, we now have her in sea water and she is slowly improving each day. At the moment, we’re still looking into why Paddy beached herself and ruling out what caused her to be so ill.”
Green Turtles are mainly found in tropical and subtropical waters, however they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beach where they hatched.
Di said the fortunate news was that Paddy’s improved health means that she will hopefully be eligible to be released back into the wild.
“Marine turtles are a common but infrequent sighting in South Australian waters as they usually live in much warmer waters,” she said.
“We want to make sure that Paddy is returned to her home, particularly as she is female, because her species return to the same nesting beach each year.
“What is amazing is that we can undertake DNA testing that might tell us where Paddy is from, however the results could take some time to come back. Our veterinary team will then need to make a decision that is best for Paddy’s welfare; whether that is returning her to the waters off South Australia or transporting her to the East Coast.”
Department for Environment and Water Director of Conservation and Wildlife, Lisien Loan, said wildlife rescuers and carers along with vets and other experts provide valuable services to injured and sick wildlife across SA, which is appreciated by the department.
“In this case, the collaborative work of a number of organisations to come to the aid of the turtle has been critical in getting it the care that it needs,” she said.
“Green Turtles are seen from time to time along our coasts and they are beautiful animals. We are heartened to hear that the great care the turtle has received means that it can hopefully be released back into the wild very soon.”
WWO Wildlife Centre Team Leader, Justin Biddle, said his team was excited to have been involved in the rescue of “such a beautiful and rare creature along our South Australian coastline”.
“Whilst we have been busy rescuing many freshwaters turtles that have been victims of the floods, this is definitely the first marine turtle we have had the pleasure of saving,” he said.
“WWO are proud to have been able to work alongside DEW, Zoos SA and the RSPCA to ensure that a positive outcome was achieved for this amazing endangered creature.”
RSPCA SA CEO, Marcus Gehrig, said it was fantastic to see a collaboration of organisations protecting native wildlife.
“We’re very proud to be among the agencies that helped with Paddy’s rescue – this kind of collaboration demonstrates how much we all prioritise caring for our precious wildlife,” he said.
“We’ll be able to contribute much more to wildlife recovery, and better assist all the wonderful volunteer organisations that rescue and rehabilitate wildlife, once our new Animal Care Campus, with its dedicated wildlife hospital, opens at O’Halloran Hill next year.”
The Green Turtle is one of the largest sea turtle species and is named for their green colouration of their fat rather than their external features. This colour results from the pigments in the sea grass, which forms a significant part of their diet.
Sadly, the species is classified as endangered with numbers decreasing due to overharvesting of eggs, hunting, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.
The Adelaide Zoo Animal Health Centre cares for approximately 250 wildlife emergency cases each year, which are brought in by wildlife organisations and government agencies.
For more information about Zoos SA, please visit zoossa.com.au.