Duffy’s True Story
Sadly what happened to Duffy is happening to turtles all around the world due to the increasing amounts of plastic in our oceans. Duffy was suffering from something called Floater’s Syndrome where the plastics she had eaten were stopping her from diving down under the water to eat – a bit like how armbands hold you at the surface of the water. She was stuck on the surface and was starving to death. Luckily turtles who are on the surface are more likely to be spotted by people out on boats and so are more likely to be rescued. Some towns have so many sick and injured turtles that they have built a hospital especially for turtles. One turtle hospital is called Reef HQ in Townsville, Australia and they rescue and look after lots of sick turtles every year.
The first thing they do is to build up the turtles strength before they can find out what is wrong with it. They keep each turtle separate in its own blue tank with a hosepipe providing constant clean water running over the top of the turtle. Here the turtles have to rest and are kept quiet and relaxed ready for their x-ray. The x-ray allows the vets to see if there is anything obviously wrong with the turtle. In lots of cases they see plastic caught in the turtle’s throat, stomach or intestines causing the blockage and making them feel very poorly. If the turtle is well enough the vets can operate and remove the plastic. The turtle then needs a long time to recover and build up their strength again. First they are put back in the blue tanks and eventually they will be strong enough to go into the main aquarium with the other sea creatures. Again they might be here for several months before they can be released back into their natural habitats. The whole process from the initial rescue to the release can take up to a year.
Who helps look after Turtles?
Lots of research on turtles from all around the world has meant that turtles are very well looked after when they are in hospital. Vets and vet technicians can become specially trained in marine life to allow them to work with large animals such as turtles, sharks and rays. Marine Scientists do lots of research into understanding how sea creatures live and how best we can protect them and help them. Volunteers can also help local conservation charities all around the world to monitor turtle nesting sites, to help protect the vulnerable eggs and hatchlings and to rescue and look after sick and injured turtles. Maybe you would like to work with turtles one day? What job sounds interesting to you?
How do Turtles get sick?
Turtles can become sick or injured in lots of different ways.
- Eating rubbish floating in the sea – floater syndrome
- Getting tangled in fishing nets, lines and hooks – ghost gear
- Getting hit by boats when the turtles are on the surface – propeller strike
- A range of natural illnesses and parasites