Turtle in Trouble

Feeding time for Bobbie the Turtle

Boaters beware! Nesting season is starting again for our friendly sea turtles and already we have a disturbing story. Local tour guide Bobby Halliday who found an injured sea turtle floating in the ocean contacted Green Reef late on Friday, March 5th. This Loggerhead female had a dollar-size hole in the side of her head, which had become severely infected. Ann Hayden of Green Reef contacted Bron Eastwood, a veterinarian relatively new to the island, and her partner Maarten Hoffmann, a Marine Conservationist, for their assistance. Arriving at the Texaco pier they found that Bobby had secured the turtle and together with the help of more locals and tourists, a make shift pen was constructed. Meanwhile Anne attained government permission for Bron to treat the turtle.

Sometime during the evening though, "Bobbie" (named for her rescuer) made her escape through a loose board. As fate would have it, Saturday she washed ashore by the Belize Yacht Club and again Bron was contacted. The rescue team this time included Auriol Samos, Ranger of Boca Chica Reserve and Miguel Alamilla of Hol Chan. All agreed "Bobbie" was in great distress and she was moved to a safer location via the Hol Chan boat.

After selecting a site, Bron, Maarten and his son Ben constructed another pen utilizing the donated chicken wire from the previous pen and started treatment. Ben is a trainee Marine Biologist who, once qualified, wants to return to Ambergris Caye to help the turtles and all other Belize marine wildlife in the long term. He has also maintained the 24 hour vigil watching over Bobbie. Next, antibiotics were secured with the aid of Lliani Paz at Lopez Drugs. (Funding as well as shelter could not be provided by any non-government or government agency contacted.) Following that, the hole was cleaned and filled in with a hardening resin as a means to deter any additional infection. Finally a "turtle shake" was concocted with fish, sardines, algae, sponge and lagoon water.

Hardened resin fills the hole from spear
Feeding consists of a rubber garden hose tube inserted through the mouth into Bobbie's stomach. This is definitely a two or three person endeavor. Next a "Crystal" bottle full of the blended shake is poured into the tube. "Feedings are not as much of a problem, as the local fishermen and Fido's Restaurant have been very generous," declared Bron. The obstacle it appears is the money for the antibiotics, which are administered every other day. Treatment could take months and an urgent appeal is underway for monetary donations that will be accepted at Lopez Drugs.

The bad news is this tragic injury appears to have been caused by someone with a spear that left this turtle to die. The good news is Bobby Halliday happened to be in the right place at the right time. Bobbie the turtle is fighting for her life and gaining strength (she is weighed weekly and about 30% better thus far) with the help of a few kind people of San Pedro. She is estimated to be around 50 to 60 years old and could possibly live to 100. The most important part of her recuperation process is rest and a stress-free environment; Bron, Maarten and family are providing this. The injury is situated very close to where her ear is located and seems to have cause some kind of equilibrium problem in which she has a serious tilt to her body when she swims. If she survives, she will be set free to face whatever fate lay ahead.

The local Marine protection agencies are pleading with everyone using the waters in the next few months to be extremely sensitive to the fact that sea turtles are nesting at this time. They will be heading for shore to lay their eggs and therefore in the direct path of boaters and fishermen. All sea turtles except for the Loggerhead and the Green Turtles are protected in the country of Belize and as a reminder, removal of any turtle eggs from a nest is illegal.

Turtle in Trouble

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