Oil covered turtle rescued and now released

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

The juvenile Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) that was found covered in crude oil on July 24th was released on Wednesday August 29th after being in rehabilitation for a little over a month. The apparently happy and energetic turtle was released at Hol Chan Marine Reserve by staff members of the same reserve and it quickly adapted, swimming swiftly and gracefully into its natural habitat. The turtle caught the attention of the local and national media after it was confirmed that what the turtle was covered in fresh crude oil.
The turtle was found by a group of divers on Tuesday July 24th along the main channel at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, covered in thick, black crude oil. The fatigued turtle was immediately transferred to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Office in San Pedro Town where the oil was removed from its body. Because the turtle had also swallowed and ingested some crude oil, biologist at the reserve had to battle to remove as much crude from inside the turtle’s mouth. In addition, the turtle was placed under intravenously administered saline and dextrose solutions along with charcoal to help further excrete the crude from its digestive system.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve Biologist Kirah Forman said that the decision was made to release the turtle because it had begun feeding on greens which showed that the health condition had improved significantly over the past week. “We know that it has begun eating and its energy level is high. [Because of this] we are certain that its chance for survival is very high,” explained Forman.
For biologists like Forman, the survival of the turtle is important considering that scientific research shows that the turtle population has long been dwindling. “Considering that the population of sea turtle is low, we are happy to have helped rescue at least one turtle, and that it now has a second chance of making it to adulthood,” said a very happy Forman, who had been closely monitoring the health progress of the juvenile turtle. It is estimated that only one in every 1,000 turtle hatchlings survive to sexual maturity and so saving the turtle’s life was even more important.
It was never established how the turtle came in contact with crude but is believed that because of the chemical components of crude oil, the turtle may have come in contact with it not too far away and very recently to the date that it was found. Biologists at Hol Chan suspected that there may have been an oil spill or natural seepage that was not reported.
The juvenile turtle, whose sex and age is unknown due to its size, was tagged for tracking purposes and released into the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, one of Belize’s most popular snorkeling and diving destinations. Biologists hope it can possibly adopt the reserve as a new home and share it with at least three other sea turtles that are known to live there. The green turtle was first marine animal to be found at Hol Chan Marine Reserve completely covered with crude oil.

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