Earlier in the season – Friday 18th July – a very large male turtle named Chronos was spotted in the harbour with a fishing line trailing from his cloaca. The turtle was identified by a team of Wildlife Sense volunteers who were conducting a quick health check on the turtles whilst collecting our behavioural data at Argostoli harbour. Our volunteers ensure daily there are no hooks caught in the turtle, the flippers are not entangled in fishing lines or nets, there are no fishing lines trailing from the mouth or cloaca and the turtles don’t have any visible injuries.
After a training session that evening, the Wildlife Sense team were equipped and prepared to capture Chronos the next morning. He was rapidly caught from the harbour and placed in our secure turtle box where a quick assessment of his injuries revealed the fishing line clearly protruding from the cloaca and extended beyond his tail. He was then taken to a secure location and kept in a large freshwater tank which had been generously donated by, Ατσάροσ Παναγήσ Εταιρεια, a local hardware/construction store. The freshwater tank allowed time to rid Chronos of most parasites that were found protruding out of his cloaca and enabled our team to monitor the progress of the hook passing whilst room was being made for him at the Athens rescue centre.
Internal fishing lines are a very serious problem to sea turtles. A fishing line caught within the turtle can mean there is an internal hook. If the hook is trapped, the trailing fishing line cannot pass on its own and can cause the intestines to become entangled. Due to the scale of the injury, Wildlife Sense contacted Γάκης Μιχάλης from ΙΑΣΙΣ Radiography in Argostoli– who very kindly allowed us to take several x-rays of Chronos to identify the cause of the trapped fishing line. A preliminary look at the x-rays revealed a hook in his throat and small shadow in his lower carapace, which was thought to be a fishing weight. After discussions with the Athens Rescue Centre, it was decided Chronos would travel to Athens and an action plan was immediately put in place.
On the morning of July 22nd, a group of very enthusiastic volunteers set off on the eight hour car and ferry journey towards Athens with Nikos. The team were greeted by the rescue staff and a group of volunteers who removed Chronos from the turtle box and assessed his injuries. Whilst at the rescue centre, they were given a tour. This allowed the team to see the recovery process of the turtles – those closest to release were in the larger circular tanks whereas those being more closely monitored or awaiting an operation were in a smaller more controlled environment.
Chronos was moved to a tank where his diet could be carefully controlled. Further x-rays by the Rescue Centre revealed two fishing hooks caught internally in the upper third of the carapace. These two hooks require an operation to be removed and prevent any further damage caused by the thin plastic fishing line. Before the operation, Chronos is being fed a diet which is high in oil which could assist in dislodging the fishing line from his intestine.
Once the operation is complete and the fishing hooks and lines have been removed, Chronos will be allowed time to fully recover in the Rescue Centre. Chronos will then be released and we hope to see him again on our daily morning surveys at Argostoli harbour.
Article written by: Jessica Betts