IAR has been privileged to have a couple of very special patients staying at the centre here in Assagao for several months whilst they recover from horrific injuries. Two wonderful Olive Ridley turtles were brought in by the Goan Forestry Dept. after being rescued having each sustained terrible injuries to a front flipper. One turtle had already lost the limb and the other was severely mutilated. The cause was most probably due to impact from boat propellers.
IAR's team of vets carried out a lengthy and complex operation in attempt to save the flipper but sadly it was damaged beyond repair and necessitated amputation in order to prevent the spread of infection and bring certain death to the turtle. The two amputees were built their own special recovery pool where they could be given daily medical care and begin their slow recovery. Litres and litres of sea water had to be regularly transported to the centre in order that the two could convalesce in as near a natural marine environment as possible. Of course it was also necessary to replicate their natural diet so huge quantities of expensive tiger prawns, squid and similar were purchased daily from the local markets to sustain these giant guests.
Everyone at Animal Tracks was totally in awe of these huge, fascinating, prehistoric creatures whose ancestors have roamed the world's oceans for over 200 million years, thousands of years before the evolution of man. But sadly over the past 50 years the world turtle population has dropped dramatically due entirely to human being's lack of care, attention and compassion. This violation is in the form of commercial turtle harvesting for shells and eggs, accidental catches from fishing for other species, pollution of seas causing virus and disease, noise pollution which results the females becoming afraid to go ashore to the nesting grounds to lay their eggs and frequent boating accidents along the coastal developments that feed the tourist industry which is in consequence wreaks havoc on attempts to conserve the wonders of the natural world and many of its endangered species. Turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all the world's oceans with the exception of the Arctic and will live for 50 to 80 years in good conditions. The Indian Ocean is home to nearly half the world's endangered sea turtle population.
The degradation of nesting beaches is a huge problem all over the world. But the northern beach area of Morjim here in Goa is a protected conservation area and it's to here that the turtles travel thousands of miles returning each season to lay their eggs by the hundred. The young hatchlings instinctively scramble their way to the sea, but even at sea they are still vulnerable and sadly 90% of laid eggs will never produce a turtle that lives beyond its first year, there are predators such as shark who find them easy prey in their infant stage with their shells still soft.
But despite all the gloomy statistics we are proud and very happy to report that the Olive Ridleys have just returned to their ocean home. IAR enlisted the help of a friend and supporter who has a boat in which he usually takes small groups on bird and wildlife sightseeing excursions on the nearby Chapora river. But today the mission was another conservation exercise, off the coast from Chapora out to sea and safe deep water within sight and smell of the northern nesting grounds to release the Olive Ridleys. The boat is named Coexistence and could not have been more appropriate for this animal rescue and release occasion.
So the precious cargo were wrapped in wet cloths and supported by cushions and caring hands then gently transported by IAR ambulance to the nearby jetty and the waiting boat. The entire IAR staff team was there on the shore to bid a fond farewell and those who had worked most closely with the Olive Ridleys had the privilege to sail out to sea and witness their spectacular return to the deep. Research has shown that turtles have an acute sense of smell and these two soon became animated and excited as if they could sense the proximity to their desired location. So without further ado the beautiful creatures were helped back to the ocean supported by the humans who had cared for and healed them and away they swam into the beautiful sunset. Although poorly sighted on land the turtles have excellent vision once deep beneath the waves, to be home in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean with all the familiar sights, smells and regained health and freedom must surely be such joy.