Sea Turtle Conservation

One turtle was admitted to our Landaa MDC this month, a juvenile Olive Ridley found entangled in a blue multifilament net (the most common net that turtles in the Maldives are found entangled in). This young Olive Ridley was rescued by a local Maldivian family who contacted us for further help. ‘Samy’ (named by the family) is in overall good body condition but has a severe jaw injury; the net was inside the turtle’s mouth causing lacerations and misalignment. These injuries require debridement of the dead tissue and application of Medi-Honey, a sterile dressing of 100% Leptospermum honey that helps maintain a moist environment for wound healing. Currently, Samy is unable to eat properly so we are cutting food into very small pieces so the turtle does not have to chew. Samy catches the food floating through the water one piece at a time, as he cannot feed from the bottom of the pool.

Samy’s prognosis is good, as he has an excellent appetite and is very active, but recovery will require time to allow the muscles to heal to enable him to eat normally and regain full jaw strength.

Resident turtles Ossy and Elsa have been utilising the additional pool space after the departure of the “Flying Turtles”. Ossy in particular has shown great improvement and is able to dive to catch food. Ossy is unable to dive straight down, but with the additional space to get a “running start” she is able to pull herself under the water’s surface. In addition to the extra space, new Environmental Enrichment Devices (EEDs) were given to the turtles to provide additional stimulation and improve their environment. Enrichment with EEDs and a variety of foods plays a vital role in keeping our turtles healthy, both mentally and physically.

Progress continues for Elsa’s overseas transfer to Oceanarium Planeta-Neptun in St Petersburg (Russia). Elsa will be housed in a large marine exhibit (31m x 12m x 3m deep) perfectly suited for her difficulties in diving. We still have further documentation to complete (CITES, health certificate) before Elsa can start the journey to her new home.

Head Start Programme

The hatchlings from two nests in Raa Atoll were released during September, resulting in a total of 183 healthy green sea turtles being given a good start to life in the ocean as a result of our project. Two weak hatchlings were admitted to our Head Start Programme, for longterm care and ‘growing out’. We currently have 14 sea turtles in our Head Start Programme: three Hawksbills (Ertmochelys imbricata) and 11 Greens (Chelonia mydas).

Sea Turtle Strandings

One turtle was rescued and transported to Kuda Huraa from Gili Lankanfushi on 21 September. The turtle was found floating and lethargic at the surface near the resort’s main jetty and was easily approached and rescued by their Marine Biologist, Josie Chandler. Gili Lankanfushi has a high occurrence of debilitated hawksbill sea turtles – turtles that are in poor body condition, lethargic and unable to dive (due to unknown causes).

The turtle arrived in poor condition and was covered in algae, indicating a long period stuck at the ocean surface. It was placed in a freshwater bath to help with hydration and removal of algae, and started with our ‘Fatty Gruel’ mixture (fish, pedialyte, glucerna, cod liver oil, flax seed oil and vit E). The turtle is also receiving daily ‘Reptile Ringer’ in addition to two daily tube feedings, and has been defecating successfully (indicating no intestinal blockage). We are keeping the animal in shallow water to prevent drowning due to weakness. Currently, the turtle is very lethargic and has made no attempts to swim, often remaining in the same position after feedings. Regular weight checks will be performed.

Maldives Sea Turtle Identification Project (MSTIP)

To date, the MSTIP has received photographs of 3408 sea turtle sightings, from 278 sites located across 16 different Maldivian atolls.

During September, 56 submissions were received and processed. 42 sightings of individuals were entered into the database, with 12 turtles being positively identified as new individuals. 14 submissions were stored for later comparisons (due to there being only 1 side of the facial profile, or low quality photos).

A big thank you to all members of the Facebook group (Maldives Turtle ID), in particular our top three contributors for September: Paolo Maurizio (Amimathi), Vanessa Labello (Kuramathi), Craig Oxley (Emperor Divers Safari).

Hawksbill turtle 'Kevin' resting on the reef top

School Visit – Kurendhoo Lhaviyani Atoll

On 24 September we had the pleasure of welcoming 41 students from Lhaviyani Kurendhoo School (grade 9-10). During their visit of our Marine Discovery Centre, the students had the chance to help with an Environmental Awareness Presentation, followed by a tour of our FishLab and Turtle Rehabilitation facility. Finally, everyone had the chance to get “hands on” by transplanting coral fragments to one of our Reefscapers frames.

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