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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

International Animal Rescue's team in Goa returns endangered turtles to the ocean

With support from the Goa Forestry Department, International Animal Rescue’s team there has finally returned two endangered Olive Ridley turtles to the ocean. It has taken months to heal the horrific injuries they sustained from boat propellers.

The turtles were wrapped in wet cloths to keep them cool prior to releaseThe turtles had been brought in by the Goa Forestry Department several months before. They had both suffered terrible injuries to a front flipper. One turtle had already lost its limb while the other’s flipper was severely mutilated. 

IAR's vet team carried out lengthy and complex surgery in an attempt to save the mangled flipper but sadly it was damaged beyond repair: it had to be amputated to prevent the spread of infection which would ultimately have killed the turtle.

The two amputees were built their own special pool where they received daily medical care and began their slow recovery. Hundreds of litres of sea water had to be regularly transported to the centre in order that the two could convalesce in as near natural a marine environment as possible. It was also necessary to replicate their natural diet so the Goa Forestry Department generously paid for huge quantities of expensive seafood to be purchased daily from the local markets to sustain the giant guests.

One of the Olive Ridley turtles being carried on a cushion into the boatEventually, after months of care, the Olive Ridleys were ready to go home. IAR enlisted the help of a friend and supporter who has a boat in which he takes small groups on bird and wildlife sightseeing trips on the nearby Chapora river. But this was an excursion with a difference. The boat set off from Chapora out to sea and safe deep water, within sight and smell of the northern nesting grounds to release the Olive Ridleys. The boat is named Coexistence which could not have been more appropriate for this animal rescue and release occasion.

The precious cargo was wrapped in wet cloths and supported by cushions and caring hands, then gently transported by IAR ambulance to the nearby jetty and the waiting boat. The entire IAR team was there on the shore to bid a fond farewell, while two officials from the Forestry Department, plus those who had worked most closely with the Olive Ridleys during their rehabilitation, sailed with them out to sea and witnessed their spectacular return to the deep. Research has shown that turtles have an acute sense of smell and these two soon became animated and excited, as if they could sense the proximity of their final destination.

The boat used to release the turtles, appropriately named 'Coexistence'So without further ado the beautiful creatures were helped back to the ocean, supported by the people who had cared for and healed them, and away they swam into the beautiful sunset. Although poorly sighted on land, turtles have excellent vision once deep beneath the waves and no doubt relished being home in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean with all the familiar sights and smells.

Editor’s Notes:

These huge, fascinating, prehistoric creatures whose ancestors have roamed the world's oceans for over 200 million years, thousands of years before the evolution of man. But sadly over the past 50 years the world turtle population has dropped dramatically, entirely as a result of people’s lack of care, attention and compassion. This violation is in the form of commercial turtle harvesting for shells and eggs, accidental catches from fishing for other species, pollution of the seas causing viruses and disease and noise pollution which makes the females too frightened to come ashore to the nesting grounds to lay their eggs. Frequent boating accidents along the coastal developments that feed the tourist industry also wreak havoc on attempts to conserve the wonders of the natural world and many of its endangered species. Turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all the world's oceans with the exception of the Arctic and will live for 50 to 80 years in good conditions. The Indian Ocean is home to nearly half the world's endangered sea turtle population.

The degradation of nesting beaches is a huge problem all over the world. But the northern beach area of Morjim in Goa is a protected conservation area and it's to this site that the turtles travel over thousands of miles, returning each season to lay their eggs by the hundred. The young hatchlings instinctively scramble their way to the sea, but even at sea they are still vulnerable and sadly 90% of laid eggs will never produce a turtle that lives beyond its first year: there are predators such as sharks in the ocean who find them easy prey in their infant stage with their shells still soft.