Here in the UK, the weeks before Christmas are filled with planning and present shopping. But, for Scarsdale Vets’ staff, the festive season could not be more different.
Deep in the Indian Ocean, Karen Davis worked alongside charity the Olive Ridley Project, helping to rescue and rehabilitate Olive Ridley sea turtles, who are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List.
Heart-shaped and olive green, Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles. However, these turtles are under threat from ghost nets – abandoned fishing nets and gear which turtles and other marine life get caught in.
Treating Injured Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
During her two-week visit, Karen applied knowledge from her 27 years of veterinary experience by assisting vets, nurses and other volunteers to treat injured Olive Ridley sea turtles who have been trapped in ghost nets. Because the centre is only a year old, Karen helped with the formulation of protocols and advised on health and safety matters. She
also answered visitor questions to guests visiting the facility.
Daily tasks for Karen and the team of volunteers included feeding the turtles and giving medicines – disguising oral medication in raw fish and crabs (which isn’t easy!) and delivering other medications via injection, though after a while the turtles can develop injection reactions, despite their tough skin. She also visited a neighbouring island to undertake a clear-up of plastic bottles left at a popular picnic site.
Upon returning from the Maldives, Karen Davis says: “We had one rescue of a young turtle that had been spotted by a dive boat. It had lost one back flipper and we amputated a severely traumatised front one. The aim is always to re-release these animals altogether. Occasionally this isn’t practical if they have lost two flippers on the same side. Teaching the injured turtles to swim and dive after amputation can take months. I took two turtles into the ocean to help with swimming lessons.”
Scarsdale Vets are very proud of our teams who are able to make a difference in areas where veterinary care is not as it is in the UK.
These are just some of the cases Karen worked on whilst volunteering with the Olive Ridley Project:
Meet Daisy one of the rescued Olive Ridley turtles. She is seen here in the prep room, which also acts as the pharmacy, laboratory and operating theatre.
She had an infection in her left front flipper and had an X-ray at a human hospital a couple of weeks ago. This involved transporting her by speed boat. She managed to damage her right front flipper on the journey and is having regular support bandages applied until that heals.
The infection in her left front flipper is under control but she still isn’t using it properly to swim. Amputation may be necessary but initially we were having a good look with her out of water to see if that can be avoided.
Stitch is the smallest patient at the centre, shown en route to the beach for a swim.
This is Morgan. She has had two flippers amputated but can swim well and dive. Unfortunately she can’t be re-released as she wouldn’t be able to get away from fast swimming predators.
She has been found a new home at a sea life sanctuary near Loch Lomond in Scotland. As soon as her paperwork and travel arrangements are finalised she will be off to colder weather. She might need a tartan woolly jacket!
Turtle With A Missing Flipper
This turtle was found trapped in netting by divers. She has now had surgery to remove an injured flipper. She already had one missing when she arrived.