In early November, a member of the public came across a sick Hawksbill turtle on Muriwai beach. Thankfully, they did the right thing by contacting the Department of Conservation (DOC) who assessed and then collected the sick turtle.

Upon arrival at Auckland Zoo, the turtle was lethargic, dehydrated, and in poor body condition. It also bore abrasions to both eyes—signs of its intense journey in the surf.

Immediate measures were taken to address the dehydration and assess the overall well-being of the turtle through blood samples and X-rays, along with the installation of an intravenous catheter for critically ill turtles requiring additional fluids and medication.

At our Zoo vet hospital, we have a dedicated room for sick sea turtles. This facility is equipped to regulate both air and tank water temperature for these marine patients. This is particularly crucial for ‘cold-stunned’ turtles, which are often hypothermic upon arrival. This controlled environment ensures a gradual and safe temperature increase over several days—an essential element in their recovery.

The blood analysis of the sea turtle indicated a significant infection and potential pneumonia. Consequently, the turtle was transported to the Veterinary Specialists Aotearoa (VSA) hospital for a CT scan, providing a thorough, detailed examination of its internal organs. This advanced imaging technique allows a more precise assessment of the pneumonia's severity. Allowing our veterinary team to formulate a comprehensive treatment plan involving the administration of fluids, antibiotics, and antifungal agents.

Currently, the turtle is receiving tube-feeding and intravenous medication to combat pneumonia. If its condition improves, the goal is to gradually reduce these treatments.

As with all turtles we treat who go on to significantly improve, the plan is to transfer the turtle to our Team Turtle partners at SEALIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium for ongoing rehabilitation.

This resilient Hawksbill turtle has demonstrated its strong fighting spirit despite being unwell and shows the importance of public awareness, prompted intervention, and the dedicated efforts of the Team Turtle partnership, which includes DOC, in safeguarding marine life.