Turtle that beats the odds finds respite in Bermuda
A green sea turtle found freezing on a beach in Nova Scotia has beaten the survival odds after being rescued and transported to Bermuda for rehabilitation.
The turtle, nicknamed Scotti, was found semi-comatose by a couple on November 16 about 100 kilometres northwest of Halifax.
The juvenile turtle, whose sex has not yet been determined, was carried off the beach and taken to a vet at Dalhousie University for treatment. It was flown to Bermuda on Thursday by Air Canada.
It is now being assessed by veterinarians at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo and will be released into the wild as soon as it is well enough.
Gaëlle Roth, co-director for the Bermuda Zoological Society’s Bermuda Turtle Project and a volunteer vet for BAMZ, a licensed rehabilitation centre, said Scotti was now eating and able to dive under the water.
Dr Roth said: “When it first arrived, we had to get it accustomed to our water. When we put it in it floated and couldn’t dive down perhaps because it had been cold stunned or had some air got trapped in its body. It resolved within a few days and it was able to dive down.
“It is swimming and diving comfortably. Two days ago it started eating. We fed it squid, which is not part of its normal diet. But as part of its rehabilitation it needs something that passes through the gut system easily.
“Now it has started eating we need to wait for a faecal sample and we will start feeding it more green vegetables, which is closer to its usual herbivorous diet. It must swim well and dive down, which it needs to be able to eat and avoid predators. It needs to be able to eat and digest its food properly.
“Once it has met those requirements, we will release it very soon after.”
Kathleen Martin, the director of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, told Canadian news outlet CBC on Friday that it was only the second time in 25 years that a “cold-stunned” turtle found in the area had survived longer than 48 hours.
She told CBC: “Typically we see these cold-stunned sea turtles and when they are found, they are dead, so this is really exciting.
“We think that Scotti is about 5 years old. They find themselves in water that is too cold for them to manage and they become hypothermic.
“It is something we routinely find off the coast of Massachusetts at this time of year. We are starting to see more of them. It is a very busy November, Scotti was one of eight sea turtles we found and the only living one.
“Scotti was really lucky, we have amazing veterinary care. Hypothermia is incredibly difficult to treat in both humans and certainly in sea turtles.”
Ms Martin said the turtle was in a reasonable condition when it was found but that its internal temperature was low and it was lethargic.
“I don’t think it would have lasted very long but it managed to rehab really nicely and was sent down to Bermuda,” she said.
She added that all sea turtles were endangered and to transfer them across international lines was a “really big deal”, in this case requiring the co-operation of the fisheries department, permitting authorities and Air Canada.
Ms Martin said: “The place we could get her the easiest even though it was further than the US was Bermuda, simply because of permitting reasons and deadlines.”
She said the turtle’s shell was about 30cm long, bigger than turtles usually found in these circumstances. It was found early after arrival, which may have improved its chances of survival.
Dr Roth said blood samples would be taken to identify where the turtle came from and what sex it was. The data may also help to determine the best habitat in which to release the animal when it is ready.
Dr Roth added: “With the blood samples we can look at its genetics to see where it came from.
“These animals are amazing. They have built in GPS and can find their way.
“Once it is released, it will probably head back to where it came from or it may stay here.
“This turtle is too small for the satellite tags to be put on it. It does have a microchip and flipper tags, so if it gets spotted again it has an ID number.”