NIREAS, the fighter
Nireas’s story is the perfect example of how different links connect to the perfect chain of rescue.
It was morning of the 12th of May, 2020, when we received a call from the Port Police of Paros island that a sea turtle had been found by a resident of the island lying motionless on a beach of Parikia.
The resident who found the turtle, as well as the Port Police officers, were instructed how to handle the turtle and move him to a safe place until the ferry would arrive that would transfer the turtle to our station on Naxos island.
“Naxos Wildlife Protection” created The Network for the Protection of the Sea Turtle in the Cyclades in cooperation with ARCHELON and Cyclades Preservation Fund, so that people and authorities are informed what to do and what the procedure is upon finding a sick/injured sea turtle.
Unfortunately, the next ferry was late in the night, and so the unconscious turtle had to wait to reach our first aid care station. The officers of the Port Police reported back to us on the turtle’s condition and, as time went by, the signs were not good.
The first night of Nireas at “Naxos Wildlife Protection’s” first aid care station
Sea turtles will lower their metabolism when in bad health, meaning that they may look unconscious or even dead. As a result, we insisted that the turtle would be sent to Naxos no matter what.
Late at night, the ferry arrived and volunteers of our association rushed inside to find a covered in algae turtle in a handmade crate with towels. The moment we approached him, the turtle moved his head and a sigh of relief escaped both volunteers.
The turtle was still alive!
The turtle had waited for too long and the first hours were critical for his survival.
At once, the Loggerhead turtle was administered fluids and antibiotics.
The subadult male weighed 34 kg with curved carapace length 69 cm, which was covered in algae and barnacles and he carried a wound on his head which was also heavily covered in algae, an indication that the turtle had been floating in this state for many days.
Through the night, the volunteers remained with him, making sure he was responding to the first stage of his treatment. The next morning, the clean-up of his wound began after administering him painkillers. This is when we realized the seriousness of his condition.
The wound was deep, extending all the way from the nostrils to his right eye and the top of his skull.
The injury was caused by a blunt object used by a human hand…
The turtle was named NIREAS, after the sea deity of ancient Greece, predecessor of god Poseidon.
Two days later, as Nireas responded to his medication and treatment, he was placed in shallow water where he would feel more closer to his natural element, but also ensure that his wound would remain dry and he would have the ease to breathe without wasting too much energy.
On a daily basis, more than once, we would clean up his wound, apply special ointments and administer him his medication and fluids. And every day, Nireas showed signs that the treatment was working.
His case was special and we had the valuable help of the specialized team of ARCHELON’s Rescue Center as well as the wildlife vet Dr. Dimitris Posantzis.
X-rays were taken at the local vet center of Dr. Pittaras, which showed that his skull was fractured in three places missing vital organs like his brain by millimeters.
Once we were sure his treatment was working and he was gaining weight, Nireas was fed for the first time, a procedure that required extra care, considering that his skull was fractured and could cause pain and affect the use of his beak.
With time, whenever he was not receiving clean-up and treatment of his wound and covered in epibiota carapace, Nireas spent his day in a tank in which we added more and more water as the turtle slowly regained his strength.
In the beginning he could only float, but he showed no issues in balance which could indicate serious neurological problems.
A month passed until Nireas managed to dive and controllably ascend. We were all thrilled at the sight, because it meant that our beloved Nireas would be able to live in the ocean again! But we still had a long way to go. Until his wound would properly heal and close, Nireas was in danger of getting infected if he was released too soon.
By end of June, 2020, Nireas already weighed 40 kg!
End of July, he first started eating by himself. This was the sign we had been waiting for that he would be able to be released much sooner than we thought.
Throughout all this time, Nireas’s wound was cleaned and treated on a daily basis and his swimming skills and dives looked more and more natural.
By August, we removed him from the water every few days to treat his wound and, with the funding of Cyclades Preservation Fund we purchased a bigger and deeper tank for him. There, Nireas spent longer time underwater resting and feeding.
With the unanimous decision between ARCHELON Rescue Center, the vet Dr. Posantzis and “Naxos Wildlife Protection”, Nireas would be clear to return to the sea end of September-beginning of October, when the sea temperature was still warm.
The case of Nireas is a special one among the volunteers of “Naxos Wildlife Protection”, not only because of the seriousness of his health condition but also the fact that he was the longest remaining patient at our station.
Nireas was hospitalized at our station for 5 months, requiring daily care and treatment, special ointments, medication and food.
The most important thing was that Nireas was also cooperative. Not once did he defend himself, even though we spend hours over his half-open skull cleaning him and removing dead tissue which was sometimes painful for him. We had found a way of communicating although we did not speak the same language.
No matter how many animals come by our station, every single one is special and treated as a unique individual, with its own character, needs and mood swings!
On October 1st of 2020, Nireas was tagged on his front flippers, as are all turtles that pass by our station entering ARCHELON’s database.
In the morning of the 3rd of October, Nireas received a final touch-up and measurements. He was transferred to the beach of Agios Prokopios where a crowd of residents of the island, visitors and representatives of the Port Policeand the authorities bid their farewell to Nireas as he crawled down the sandy beach heading straight to the sea.
Three volunteers of “Naxos Wildlife Protection” swam discreetly with him for a long time to ensure he was alright.
The first few minutes, Nireas was a bit rusty in his movements, which was expected since he had spent 5 months inside a tank. Luckily, it only took him a few minutes to adjust and, soon, Nireas was diving comfortably, taking long deep breaths and swimming like this adventure of his had never taken place!
We have to be honest, it was difficult to part ways with Nireas after all this time.
Seeing him healthy and strong again swimming in the sea was the reward that filled our hearts and all of our efforts.
Nireas reminded us that, no matter the obstacles and the difficulties, we need to be fighters and make it through and we will continue following his example and fight to protect and save every single creature that needs our help with the goal to return them in a safe home…
“We have a responsibility toward the other life-forms of our planet whose continued existence is threatened by the thoughtless behavior of our own human species. . . . Environmental responsibility – for if there is no God, then, obviously, it is up to us to put things right.”– Jane Goodall