the green turtle
On the 24th of June in 2019, we received a call from a partner of ours and vet from Syros island Dr. M. Vorrisis saying that a friend of him came across a sea turtle floating in the sea by a beach.
It seemed that the poor creature was fighting to breathe in the shallows.
It was only two months before that incident that we started building the Network for the Protection of the Sea Turtles in the Cyclades in cooperation with ARCHELON – The Sea Turtle Protection Society in Greece and the support of Cyclades Preservation Fund (CPF).
Our goal is to inform locals, the authorities and people who worked in or by the sea (divers, fishermen, coastal businesses, etc) about sea turtles, their behavioral patterns and how to act when encountering an injured/sick sea turtle. Unfortunately, it is a known issue in Greece that the connections between islands and the mainland are difficult, making it vital to create a station for sea turtles where they can receive first aid care in closer distance. Naxos island, our base, is located in the middle of the South Aegean sea where we can receive cases from all around the Cyclades.
In mid-April of 2019 we had made a presentation in Syros, which Dr. Vorrisis had attended as well. And, so, the connection was made. Thanks to that connection, that juvenile turtle had luck on his side.
While on the phone with Dr. Vorrisis and the Rescue Center of ARCHELON, it was decided that it was crucial the turtle reached special care as soon as possible. The next ferry was in 1,5 hours to Naxos, and Dr. Vorrisis with the help of his young son rushed to take the turtle all the way across the island to reach the port in time. On the way to the port, they managed to take an X-Ray of the turtle which, luckily, didn’t show ingestion of foreign objects or infection.
When Dr. Vorrisis, his son and the turtle reached the port, there was objection putting a wild animal in the boat, as the employees of the specific ferry were not familiar with this procedure and did not want to take into their responsibility a living wild animal. After a lot of talk, writing applications and bureaucracy, the green turtle, safe in a box, was placed in the boat and his journey started to reach Naxos island.
A few hours later, with the car parked at the port, volunteers of Naxos Wildife Protection waited impatiently for the boat to arrive. It was the first time we would be treating exlcusively a green turtle, which latin name is Chelonia mydas, much rarer in our waters than the Loggerhead turtle. But we had the unconditional support of the Rescue Center of ARCHELON, as well as a lot of experience with Loggerhead turtles.
When the small green turtle reached our station and was placed on the examination table, the sight was horrendous. The poor creature looked as if it hadn’t eaten in weeks, it was not moving except to breathe, a slow instinctive lift if his head, barely opening his mouth to inhale. His plastron, the under part of its body, was sucked in, indicating serious undernourishment. Barnacles had found refuge on his emaciated body, even in his eyelids.
We knew we were fighting with time.
HERMES was the name the juvenile green turtle received. His treatment started immediately, fluids, medication, etc. We were taking care of him in shifts, watching over him even during the night, making sure he was still breathing. His curved carapace length (CCL) was 47cm and he weighed 6,6 kg. The next day began the cleaning of his body from the parasites. In addition to his treatment for undernourishment, he had to go through treatment for his eye infection too.
It wasn’t until a week later that he finally opened up his eyes and lifted his head to take a look at us. Our eyes filled with tear. He was responding to his treatment!
Hermes had to be force-fed a long time, until he got his strength back with a special enriched with vitamins mixture of food containing necessary ingredients.
Once Hermes completed his treatment, it was a matter of time for his return to the sea. It was such a relief to see him dive with ease, spend time on the bottom of the tank.
It was decided unanimously with ARCHELON that Hermes was ready to be “discharged” and return home! Unfortunately, though, the northern winds during that time were blowing hard and we thought it would be wiser to release Hermes in the open sea, since he would be wasting too much energy to reach the open sea from shore.
With the assistance of the lifeguard Vaggelis, we took a small boat the morning the wind subsided slightly and took the chance to take Hermes out in the open sea.
He was getting active in his bundle of wet towels and the splash of the waves flowed on him and he tasted the saltness of his home.
At the lee side of Glaronisi, an uninhabited islet west of Plaka, we helped Hermes enter the sea and there he trully became alive!
We swam with him for a long time as he descended and ascended, the silver tags on his flippers glimmering. He took easily deep breaths and then dived again. He even went all the way down to the sea bottom at more than 10 meters of depth and it was apparent that he didn’t need our help anymore.
When working with animals, it is easy to get attached. Even wild animals, when they are vulnerable they will either be defensive or they will subdue, making them look friendly. But, all of us who work with wildlife rehabilitation know, that those animals will only trully be happy and free when they are in their natural habitat away from us, humans.
They do not need us to live their lives, the only thing they need from us is to respect them and their homes, Nature.
Hermes weighed 10,8 kg the day of his release!
Copying the words of Dr. Vorrisis: “This 2 minute video only represents numerous hours of effort and dedication of a few people working at those rescue centers… I know very well how much pain they’ve seen and what beast they are fighting against. They are fighting against us, “humans”…
The Might Man is the many men and women.”