Ever heard of a flying turtle? Well, we saw one today; it flew in from
Punta Gorda on a Tropic Air flight!
The mature female hawksbill was found a few days ago in distress in the
waters off Punta Gorda.
It was spotted by a dive-boat which reported it to
TIDE, The Toledo Institute for Development and The Environment.
They've been trying to rehabilitate it, but for the specialized care, they
had to bring it to the city - and eventually into San Pedro. And like any
big time traveler - this hawksbill came on a fight to the municipal
We followed it from there to the nearby fisheries Department - where its care-taker explained the troubles she's seen:
James Foley - Science Director, TIDE
"She was found near the Frenchman Cayes in Port Honduras Marine Reserve by a dive tourism boat, and they reported her to the TIDE Ranger Station at Abalon Caye, and so they were able to take the turtle back there. Now the problem with the turtle, of course, was that she wasn't able to dive. It was quite clear that she was extremely buoyant at the rear end, leading us to the suspicion that there was some kind of gas build-up inside the shell. Maybe she ingested some plastic which could cause a blockage in her intestine, which may lead to a bacterial infection developing and then gas build-up and seeping through to the underside of the shell. All we know is that she can't dive, and if she can't dive, then she can't eat. They decision was made to bring her over to PG, and then - I'm not sure, but I believe that she might be Belize's first flying turtle. I brought her up on the plane, so thank you so much to Tropic Air for donating the flight; TIDE would like to extend their thanks for that. We were very worried because we thought maybe the altitude might have some impacts, but they were able to redirect the plane, thankfully. It was going to Belmopan, which would have meant going over the hills, but we stopped in Placencia, and then came directly here. The pilot very kindly flew at a lower altitude the entire way."
"Is she showing signs of of recovery? Or is she still reluctant to take in food?"
"Well, She's only eaten one piece of fish since we have seen her, and she hasn't defecated at all, which leads us to the suspicion that maybe she's got a blockage in her gut. That could be because of plastic. We need to do further investigation, but we needed to move her to the Fisheries Department here in Belize City so that we could have the facilities we needed to be able to do that."
Linda Searle - ECOMAR
"In the past, if someone spotted a turtle like this floating at sea or washed ashore, if it wasn't too badly injured, they would probably just eat it and believe that the turtle was going to die anyway. But, recently we've found that if people come across a sick turtle, they actually don't want to eat the sick turtle, because maybe they're going to get sick themselves. So, we've been fortunate that the mindsets have been changed, and the people are actually calling us now."
One theory is that the hawksbill may have foraged on a huge raft seaweed
and trash that recently floated into Punta Gorda - similar somewhat to this
one we found a few years ago.
Again, the Hawksbill is an acutely ENDANGERED SPECIES and it is illegal to
hunt, or sell it.
This one is an estimated 50 years old - they can live to as old as 150
Last week 3 turtle strandings were reported, one in Hopkins, this one
at Frenchman's Caye , and a Green Turtle in a pond at the tourism village,
Ecomar says they need large vats or tubs to keep the turtles and if you
have any you can call Linda at 671-3483.