As of yesterday afternoon our vet team have been caring for a large black sea turtle (a sub-species of green turtle) that was found washed up, sick and injured at Beach Haven.

A concerned member of the public contacted our conservation partners at the Department of Conservation (DOC) on their helpline 0800 DOC HOT and they brought her here to our vet hospital to be examined with the hope that we could treat her. Sadly, despite our best efforts she died late last night. 

When she arrived, she was emaciated and essentially comatose. Auckland Zoo veterinarian Lydia says at first, she could barely register a heart-beat so the prognosis was grave but the team rallied to do what they could for her. She was examined, blood sampled, given intra-coelomic fluids and had full-body xrays. As you can see from these X-ray images, amongst other health issues, a fishhook was firmly embedded inside her throat.

Dr Lydia says often it is the fishing line attached to the hook that actually does the most damage. It can travel all the way into the turtle’s intestines and get caught up in vital organs like the stomach and can cause the intestines to bunch up and stop functioning. A fishing line is also too thin to be picked up in an X-ray scan, so it would only be when our vets went in with an endoscope or at post mortem that they can see the extent of the problem.

When sea turtles wash up on New Zealand beaches and are found by the public they’re already extremely ill as they will fight and fight to keep swimming and stay alive. This means many sea turtle patients aren’t able to make it through the first couple of days due to their injuries.

The good news is, for the turtles that do make it, our conservation partnership with Sealife Kelly Tartlon’s means they are wild rescues that get a second chance at life, after being extensively treated at the zoo, and then rehabilitated at Kelly Tarltons.

This is a big reminder to all kiwis and tourists that are out fishing this summer, to bring everything back that you take with you so we can all make sure that the endangered wildlife in our oceans remain safe from harm.

If you do see wildlife that you are concerned about, please don’t approach it, but instead call DOC like this conscientious citizen did, so we can do everything we can to try and save it.