Turtles are nomadic, wandering the oceans, often solitary. They’ve been cruising the Atlantic for at least 150 million years, a lot longer than men.
Those you may spot when swimming here have probably crossed the Atlantic from the beaches of Central America or the southern US, or come north from the Cape Verde Islands. They always return to lay their eggs on the same beach from which they emerged, no matter how long or how far ago.
After all that travelling, it’s a shame that they are often spotted in distress by local fishermen, tourist trips and lifeguards. Sadly, their injuries are almost always the fault of men. A few are victims of collisions with boats, but the majority are suffering because of our pollution of the ocean.
Fishing hooks are often found in their throats, or they are found, like the one in the picture, trapped in fishing nets. Our frequent use of plastic is another problem. Turtles can get entangled in large sheets of the stuff or ingest plastic bags, which look to them like jellyfish, a favourite food. They eat the bags and feel full. Of course the plastic doesn’t digest, but because they feel full they don’t eat. Unlike man, they only eat when they need to, and so starve to death. Turtles have also been found with weird shell abnormalities after becoming stuck, say in those plastic rings your beers come in, when young, the developing shell growing into strange shapes.
Prompted by watching a release of two recovered Loggerhead turtles on the beach in El Médano recently, I visited the La Tahonilla recuperation Centre in La Laguna, where they are nursed back to health. La Tahonilla cares not only for turtles, but for any injured, native wildlife. There, I learned what to do should I find an injured animal, which is ring 112. That’s the same number you ring for other emergencies. Staff speak English and they will get a rescue team to the animal.
In the meantime if you find a turtle keep it quiet and damp, gently wetting it with seawater if you can. Even turtles with broken shells can be healed, although that’s a long process. You can clean it if necessary, cut away any netting or plastic in which it may be caught. Shorten the line if necessary, to avoid further entanglements, but do not attempt to remove a hook, that might cause more problems.
Turtles are protected in Canarian waters and fines for disturbing them, unless it’s a rescue, can be up to €12,000.
We can, of course, also help by not contributing to the pollution problem. Taking our rubbish home is always the correct thing to do, but by the ocean it’s even more important not to let our bottles and wrappings blow out to sea.
Turtles are always released back from the beach as near to the place they were rescued as possible. I’ve attended releases in both Candelaria and Los Cristianos. If you see a group of people gathered, go over and take a look. The rescue centre staff are always very happy to explain what’s happening, their work and how we can help.
Category : about tenerife
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