Turtles at ReefWatch

Turtles are known to have great personalities, with their fair share of quirks and wits. ReefWatch, your friendly neighbourhood NGO, is determined to rescue, rehabilitate and restore these charismatic species. We have treated three female Olive Ridley turtles from Kundapur in Karnataka and are currently treating a turtle at our new base in Goa.

Olivia, our oldest girl, was found by one of our Marine Stranding Network volunteers on July 7th 2020. She came to us with a severely injured right flipper and some minor rope injuries around her neck and left flipper. She was approximately 13 years old and it seemed like she had hurt herself by getting tangled in a net.Olivia stayed with us the longest and developed an oddly fascinating relationship with Thejaswini, our base manager. She refused to eat when anyone else fed her and would be visibly impatient if her feeding was delayed by a couple minutes. Olivia would manage to wiggle her way under the fresh water pipe every time her tank was being cleaned, sometimes getting it right over her head (yes, she was a bit of a klutz). Her right flipper unfortunately needed to be amputated post which she recovered very well and her other injuries healed wonderfully too! We monitored her for a few days before release and Olivia put on a healthy 2 kgs by the time she was ready for release on 30th August 2020. While we were all elated about watching a turtle happily swim off into the big blue, Thejaswini said a bittersweet goodbye to her favourite.

Snappy was found and brought to us by the Karnataka Forest Department in Kundapur on July 9th 2020. This resilient little turtle was all of 9 years old, had a fractured left flipper and was also missing a hind limb. We suspect her injuries were a result of ghost nets and being caught in a storm. After her initial few days with Thejaswini and Medha, our on-call vet, she really wasn’t as ‘snappy’ to say the least; She was a picky  eater and hated the sight of mackerel. If she did happen to see mackerel though, she was quick to express her displeasure by squirting water through her nose. She also squirted water very often around Shantanu, our head veterinarian. Unfortunately, Snappy’s left flipper needed to be amputated but she regained her sense of balance swiftly which was a wonder to witness. Post her amputation, she put on a good 3kgs before being released on 27th August 2020. Snappy was released off the coast from Kundapur just past the breakwater  where she happily dove straight down as soon as her flipper touched the water. 

Shelly (such an original name!) was found by the Karnataka Forest Department in Murudeshwar on August 9th 2020. The poor thing was found washed up on a beach with a missing left flipper and some minor rope injuries around her neck. Shelly struggled to settle in the first week she spent with us, she kept trying to swim away from us and hardly ate. Once Thejaswini found out mackerel was her favourite (unlike fussy Snappy), they began to get along very well. We eventually also learnt the hard way that Shelly didn’t like fish heads and was often seen regurgitating food she wasn’t happy with. She really enjoyed her daily spa sessions however and was incredibly serene when her shell was being scrubbed. Shelly healed really well too and was released on 28th August 2020. We released her just past the breaker line from where she was found and she too quickly disappeared beneath the waves.

As caregivers and scientists it was amazing to experience the Olive Ridleys’  intelligence and individuality firsthand! All three had an uncanny knack for knowing when their fish had spent more than 12 hours in the freezer and would quite snootily turn their noses up at it! Once they had all healed and were doing well we put a mirror in the tank to see how a turtle would react; at first they tried to bite and look behind the mirror, knocking it over in the process. Eventually they would get used to the mirror and go about their business as usual. Also, the turtles definitely developed a mild distrust for Shantanu, our head veterinarian, but were on their best behaviour during treatments and on release.  
ReefWatch is currently rehabilitating a spirited young Hawksbill named Henry in Goa, who is being treated by Charmaine, a veterinarian. Henry washed up on 18th May 2021, severely dehydrated just after the cyclone blew over Goa but generally looks to be uninjured. He’s itching to swim off into the ocean, back to his reefs, and our team cannot wait to release him as soon as he’s ready.

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