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Critically Injured Hawksbill Turtle Swimming Towards Recovery In Sydney’s Animal Rescue Centre

Sydney, Wednesday 17 February 2021: Small, covered in barnacles and fighting for her life – that was the way a young and critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle was found by SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium staff late last year after receiving a tip-off from the public.

The 4kg turtle, named Avalon after the beach she was seen floating off in NSW, was barely responsive in mid-November when the team picked her up and rushed her back to the aquarium’s Animal Rescue Centre for emergency treatment. Fortunately, she is now on the road to recovery and there are hopes that one day she will swim back into the wild.

Avalon on the road to recovery in January 2021 - 4

“When we first saw her, we didn’t think she would pull through,” said Kellie Carmody, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium’s on-site Vet Nurse. “She was in quite a critical state and it was really important that we moved quickly so that we would be able to turn her health around in a positive direction.”

Using resources available inside the aquarium’s Animal Rescue Centre – one of only two centres licensed to rescue and rehabilitate turtles in Sydney – the team took bloods and conducted X-Rays to discover the young Hawksbill suffering from extreme dehydration, a severe infection and congested intestines. She was also covered in groups of crustaceans called barnacles that can cause discomfort and reflect poor health in turtles.

The team of sea life experts put Avalon on fluids and antibiotics as well as other supplements. Within a few weeks, she was responding positively to her treatments and heading towards recovery.

“After a few doses, Avalon was able to lift her head and respond to treatments,” explained Kellie. “The barnacles started dropping away and her intestines have now cleared up.”

Although far from a full recovery, her carers are thrilled to see her on the road to restoring her health and hope that one day they will be able to return her to her home in the wild.

“It’s great to see her get her fight back,” said Saskia McDonald, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarist and one of Avalon’s daily carers. “It’s really important to us that we get her back into good health and give her a good chance at returning to the ocean so that she can contribute to repopulating her critically endangered species.”

Once Avalon has completed her recovery and been cleared by the Animal Rescue Centres veterinary team, a suitable location will be chosen for her release to the wild in accordance with our licence from NSW National Parks and Wildlife.

Background on Hawksbill Turtles:

Hawksbill is a critically endangered sea turtle that has experienced a rapid population decline over the last forty years due to human fishing and hunting practises. They are believed to have an estimated population of less than 25,000 left in the wild.

They are a migratory animal that can grow over 100kg and live up to 50 years in the wild. They can be found moving across the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans but also swimming in shallow lagoons and coral reefs.

Hawksbill Turtles are considered among the more beautiful of the sea turtles due to their shell colouring which can change depending on sea temperature. It’s for this reason that they were hunted by humans and their shells sold for decorative purposes. It is now illegal to capture and trade Hawksbill Turtles thanks to a law passed by The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Background on SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Centre

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Centre opened in March 2019 with the ethos of rescuing and protecting ocean life as well as establishing breeding programs to better understand and facilitate endangered or threatened species. 

The Darling Harbour-based centre is one of only two establishments in Sydney licensed to rescue and rehabilitate a vast number of sea life including sea snakes and turtles. In the last six months, the centre has housed and rehabilitated five turtles.

Beyond rescue and rehabilitation, the centre plays a big part in the White’s Seahorse Conservation Breeding Program established by SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, NSW Fisheries and the University of Technology.

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