Friday, June 14, 2024

Turtle found covered with crude oil at Hol Chan Marine Reserve

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A turtle completely covered in crude oil was found floating in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve off Ambergris Caye. The juvenile Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) was found by a group of divers on Tuesday July 24th along the channel at Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The divers rescued the animal and turned it over to park rangers in the area.

According to Hol Chan Marine Reserve Manager Miguel Alamilla, the green turtle was found sometime around 3PM on Tuesday. “The turtle was immediately transferred to our office where we began caring for it,” said Alamilla. The green turtle, with carapace/back measuring 11 inches long and suspected to be between two to three years old, was observed entirely covered with thick black crude oil and inside the turtle’s mouth was also filled with oil. The turtle was observed to be very fatigued and was unable to move

We removed all of the crude oil from its outer body and as much of the oil from within the turtle’s mouth. We do strongly believe that the turtle may have ingested some of the thick oil. We know that turtles are strong and tolerant and we are hoping that the turtle makes a full recovery” said Alamilla. The turtle is under close observation as cooking oil has been given to the turtle orally in an attempt to help the animal pass any crude oil it may have swallowed. While the turtle is weak, Alamilla says that the condition seems better than when it was brought in.  If the heath of turtle deteriorates, an IV drip will be applied.

But where in Belize could a small juvenile turtle come in contact with crude oil? That’s the same question that has the staff at Hol Chan puzzled. “We don’t know the origin of the turtle and we don’t know how this turtle came in contact with crude oil. What we know is that once crude oil hits the surface, part of it evaporates leaving the thick, tar like substance, as was found on this turtle,” said Alamilla.

It is believed that because of the chemical components of crude oil, the turtle may have come in contact with it not too far away and very recently. “It is very difficult for a turtle of that size to survive very long with so such crude over and inside its body,” said Alamilla.  Biologists at Hol Chan suspect that there may have been an oil spill or natural seepage that has not been reported.

It is the hope of Hol Chan Marine Reserve for the turtle to show signs of improvements and to fully recover.

This is the first time that Hol Chan Marine Reserve has recorded a marine animal covered with crude oil.

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