Perth Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, Simone Vitali, said: “We see about 5-10 sea turtle patients a year. These juvenile animals were individually found on various beaches from Coral Bay to Secret Harbour and City Beach over the last fortnight.”
“For them to be hauled out on the sand at their age indicates something was amiss.”
Further examinations of each of the turtles confirmed that they were ‘cold stunned’ and anaemic. “They were grappling with the cooler oceanic conditions. Being cold blooded animals this was also affecting their feeding ability and energy levels.”
The two Loggerhead Turtle hatchlings are also missing some digits. “One is missing part of its right front flipper, the other is missing part of its left front flipper– they are a pigeon pair,” said Simone. “But this isn’t uncommon for tiny turtles who often fall victim to bigger fish in the sea and research suggests it rarely affects them later on in life.”
After a veterinary examination at Perth Zoo’s hospital involving x-rays, blood tests and thorough medical assessment, the turtles have been set up in specialised pools, heated to approximately 28 degrees to warm them up. They’re also dining on a diet of squid and prawns to boost their weights.
“Once we’re happy with their progress they’ll be moved onto a rehabilitation facility to prepare for release back to the wild,” said Simone.
Turtles have lived on the planet since the age of dinosaurs and are exceptionally long lived. “These turtles are all youngsters and will no doubt outlive me. They’re just at the start of their journey, so to think that we have helped extend the life of four of these creatures is exceptionally gratifying.”
There are seven species of marine turtles in the world and six occur in Australian waters. All six species have suffered population declines as a result of pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, plastic bag ingestion, depletion of food stocks, boat-related injuries, loss of shoreline breeding areas and egg predation by species such as foxes and dogs.
Marine turtles are recognised internationally as a species of conservation concern and are listed in the World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Animals.
Anyone who finds a turtle on a beach is advised to leave it where it is and contact relevant wildlife authorities.