Turtle Head Start Programme

During September, three juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) arrived at our Kuda Huraa facility (via Landaa Giraavaru). They had previously been kept as pets for several months on the local island of Kinolhas (Raa Atoll), and have now been admitted into the Head Start Programme (numbers G78 – G80). They are in good health, and range in length from 13-17cm and in weight from 380-780g.

Meanwhile, green turtle G66 (‘Hendrix’) graduated from our Head Start Programme this month, and was released with a satellite tag on 24 September whilst on a marine life safari at Velaa Faru (N.Malé Atoll). You can follow his progress here on our satellite map, which is regularly updated with tracking data. At the time of writing, he is heading North East towards the southerly tip of India, and has so far travelled a straight-line distance of 236 miles.

Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation

Many thanks to Angela (marine biologist at Kuramathi Island Resort) for rescuing two Olive Ridley turtles, ‘Lefty’ and ‘Peggy’.

Lefty’ was found floating on 1 August with one front flipper missing. It also has buoyancy problems, a weak rear flipper and scars on its carapace perhaps from a boat injury. It was cared for initially at our Kuda Huraa centre, where its injuries healed and flipper strengthened, and then transferred to our larger facility at Landaa Giraavaru on 22 September.
Lefty’s appetite gradually increased over the following few days, consuming squid, fish and shrimps, and because he is still a juvenile we hope to see improvements in buoyancy syndrome over the coming weeks.

Peggy’ was found on 25 August, floating with one missing front flipper. She was severely dehydrated and the right side of her carapace was damaged. Her missing flipper could be the result of a ghost net entanglement, and there were barnacle scars and plenty of algae covering her carapace, suggesting that she has been floating for a long time. Peggy was cared for at Kuda Huraa, where she was rehydrated and treated with laxatives, regaining her appetite. She was then transferred to Landaa Giraavaru on 5 September, for more rehabilitation and monitoring, in the hope of overcoming her buoyancy problems.

Our Kuda Huraa rehabilitation patient, a rescued Olive Ridley turtle named ‘Riusha’ is now able to dive and feed by itself. The deep laceration on the left flipper has started to heal and we hope to release the animal soon.
EDIT : We are pleased to report that Riusha was successfully released on 12 October. Bon voyage, Riusha !

The rescued turtles admitted to our Centres often have algae growing on the carapace and head, especially when they have been entangled, floating in the ocean and exposed to sunlight. This is not usually harmful, and most wild turtles have some algae on their carapace, but we groom our turtles regularly to prevent overgrowth as this may hide carapace problems. Using a sponge or soft brush, we simply scrub the carapace and top of the heads which are the most prominent areas, and sometimes on the underside of the carapace as well. Peggy’s scutes (scales) on her carapace are also shedding, so we are applying medicinal cream to encourage healing and prevent any bacterial or fungal infections.

We have started weighing the turtle’s food as part of a detailed monitoring process, to find out if their weight and diet is contributing to the problem of buoyancy syndrome. The turtles are currently being fed 3-5% of their body weight daily, although this formula is altered depending on individuals. We have also started to introduce a larger variety into their diets, with squid, prawns and slipper lobster heads. The turtles seem to appreciate the change as they are always hungry by their 5pm feeding time!

Weighing Lefty the Olive Ridley Turtle

Weighing Lefty the Olive Ridley Turtle (thanks to Angela, marine biologist, Kuramathi Island Resort, Maldives)