Turtle Tangled In Fishing Line Doesn't Want To Say Goodbye To Her Rescuers
The hawksbill turtle could hardly breathe. Fishing line was tangled around her neck and front flippers, cutting off her circulation. The turtle also struggled to keep her head above water - the net pulled her down and made it impossible for her to swim.
She struggled for hours - maybe even days - but couldn't wriggle out of the net. The harder the turtle struggled, the tighter the net became.
A local fisherman in Watamu, Kenya, found the hawksbill floating on the ocean surface. He tried to free her from the fishing line, but found it impossible.
So the fisherman gently pulled the turtle and fishing net onto his boat and returned to shore. Then he called Local Ocean Trust-Watamu Turtle Watch, a group that works to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles on the Kenyan coast.
"The fishing net would have killed her if she was left alone for much longer," Casper Van De Geer, manager at Local Ocean Trust, tells The Dodo. "You could see the swelling in her neck where the circulation had been cut off, and the groove on her flippers where the net had dug into her. She was also quite skinny, and it was clear she'd been unable to swim or dive properly."
Van De Geer and the team at Local Ocean Trust took the turtle, whom they named Sasha, back to the rehab center to treat her wounds. They cleaned the cuts on her neck and flippers with betadine, and put her on a dose of antibiotics.
The team watched Sasha carefully as she swam in her tank at the rehab center. If she floated passively in the water, they'd know she had a more serious medical issue. But Sasha surprised everyone by swimming around with strength and vitality.
"She quickly bounced back and clearly enjoyed being able to swim freely without having to drag that big heavy lump of nets with her," says Van De Geer.
After spending 22 days in rehabilitation, Van De Geer decided Sasha was ready to be released back into the ocean. He and a team of volunteers took Sasha to a beach along the Watamu Marine National Park. Van De Geer and his colleague donned masks and snorkels and jumped in the water so they could watch Sasha's progress.
Good thing they did, because Sasha didn't swim so well. "She kept floating to the surface, which told us that she might have a problem with her buoyancy," says Van De Geer.
"It was almost like she didn't want to say goodbye," he says. "Perhaps she knew she still needed help."
"She was released inside a marine national park, where fishing is not allowed," says Van De Geer, "so she should be safe there. We hope that she will live a long and happy life. Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered so every single one that is saved will make a difference in ensuring this species' survival."
Check out the video of Sasha's release:
Local Ocean Trust runs the only turtle rehabilitation and rescue center in Kenya. The group works closely with a large number of fishermen in the Watamu area to create understanding and a sense of empathy for sea turtles as well as the wider marine environment.
Local Ocean Trust has also run a successful bycatch net release program for the past 20 years, protects sea turtle nests, runs an environmental education program in local schools and works with community groups to reduce their reliance on fishing.