Turtles return to the ocean

news: Turtles return to the ocean

The turtles – Amélia, Bartolomeu, Calypso, Caio, Cibele and Cícero – all from the Caretta caretta species, had spent several months at Zoomarine’s rehabilitation centre. The fact that the turtles were given their own names is testament to the individual care provided by the Zoomarine staff.

Open since 2002, the centre operates in association with the Instituto de Conservação da Natureza (ICN), the institute for the preservation of nature, and is the first rehabilitation unit in Portugal for marine animals found off the Portuguese coast that are exhausted, ill, injured or simply disoriented.

Amélia arrived at the centre in November 2003. She was found off the north coast of Portugal and taken to Porto’s science faculty where they lacked the facilities to treat her injuries – a weakened left fin and an infected wound. The Portuguese Air Force took her to Zoomarine, weighing only 4,586kg on arrival and measuring 33,4 centimetres. Thanks to the meticulous care she received, Amélia now weighs 19,500kg and measures 54,3 centimetres.

Another turtle, Bartolomeu, was rescued by Norwegian fishermen, who found him trapped in fishing nets off the Azores. The crew took him back to Norway before authorities ruled he should be returned to Portugal. Zoomarine staff ensured he spat out a fishhook he had swallowed and tended to his neck wound. A year later, Bartolomeu was ready to return home.

Calypso spent five months at the rehabilitation centre. He was found trapped in fishing nets off Albufeira and was taken to Zoomarine, where staff placed him under careful observation to ensure he did not develop pneumonia. Another turtle, Caio, was also discovered in fishing nets off Albufeira in March. He was disinfected and nursed back to health.

Cibele had been in Zoomarine since May. She collided with a fishing vessel in Vila Real de Santo António. Fortunately, fishermen noticed the accident and attended to her until staff from Zoomarine arrived.

Cícero was also one of the centre’s short-staying residents. He was found in July, corralled by a system of salt works in Praia dos Cavacos, Olhão. Fishermen rescued him and tended him until Zoomarine staff arrived. Though he was dehydrated and weakened, he fully recovered and was returned to the ocean.

Dolphin dies after rescue

A dolphin, rescued by a team of biologists from Zoomarine off the Albufeira coast last week, died two days later of respiratory failure.

The baby dolphin was rescued after being spotted twice near the coast. Élio Vicente, director of Zoomarine’s Science and Education Department, said the mammal was injured after finding itself in a rocky area off the coast. “Dolphins only come near the coast when disorientated or seriously ill,” he said.

The dolphin was first spotted near the beach of Santa Eulália and was transported a mile out to sea with the help of Maritime Police. But the dolphin then surfaced again at a nearby beach, indicating a recurring health problem that led to the intervention of Zoomarine. “It was a very delicate operation, because this is a very sensitive and nervous species,” explained one of the biologists.

• If you would like to work as a volunteer at the Zoomarine’s rehabilitation centre, helping with the care of rescued animals, call marine biologist Élio Vicente on 289 580 311 or email eliovicente@zoomarine.pt