A few weeks ago, a sick and injured olive ridley sea turtle was discovered washed up on Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē / Ninety Mile Beach by a concerned member of the public.

Thankfully they did the right thing and contacted the Department of Conservation, who responded to the call and arranged for the sea turtle to be flown to Auckland, where our Team Turtle partners SEALIFE Kelly Tarlton’s collected and transported the turtle to our Zoo Vet Hospital.

On arrival at the Zoo, the sea turtle had a complete clinical examination by our veterinary team, which included taking blood samples and X-rays to assess their systemic health.

"Olive ridley sea turtles are not commonly found in New Zealand waters and do not nest on our shorelines. This species is among the smallest of the world's sea turtles and is found primarily in the tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. When sea turtles are washed-up in New Zealand, they are typically very sick, which was the case with this individual." Zoo veterinarian Dr. Adam Naylor explains.

The team immediately began administering intravenous fluids, pain relief, and antimicrobial treatment. Finding an appropriate blood vessel for IV catheter insertion can be challenging in turtles. The team do this using an ultrasound probe to examine the turtle's neck and identify the optimal blood vessel for catheter placement. Intravenous fluids help to support the turtle’s circulatory system and ensure adequate hydration of the patient.

Open wounds were discovered around the sea turtle’s fins and upper neck area, indicating they may have been entangled in fishing nets or abandoned and lost nets. These are known as ‘ghost nets’ - which float in the ocean and trap marine life, including sea turtles. Once entangled, they struggle to break free which often can lead to severe injuries or even death.

Unfortunately, this olive ridley did not survive despite our best efforts, but at least it was given a chance of survival, and crucially, was prevented from suffering in the wild.

This is an important message for all Kiwis and visitors to our beautiful shores, to be considerate of marine species when fishing and not discard fishing gear and netting. This ongoing hazard represents a critical challenge in conserving these magnificent creatures, as it contributes to declining sea turtle populations and underscores the urgent need for sustainable fishing practices and greater awareness of the devastating impact of fishing gear on marine ecosystems.

If you ever see a marine species in need, please do not approach it. Instead maintain a safe and respectful distance and contact the Department of Conservation on 0800 DOC HOT.