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Turtle Health and Welfare Workshop in Greece

Helping a sick or injured sea turtle recover and be ready to return to the sea is always a cause for celebration, but do you know why adult male turtles shouldn’t be left to find their own way from the beach to the water? Or why a turtle mustn’t be released immediately after an MRI scan?

These were just two of the many issues touched upon last week, when turtle rescuers from across Greece travelled to the ARCHELON Turtle Rescue Centre, just south of Athens, to join the WVI Turtle Team for a two day conference and workshop on sea turtle health and welfare.

We were delighted that marine vet Tania Monreal and vet nurse Matthew Rendle were able to be joined by ultrasound expert, Jack Pye RVN, and GPS tracker ghuru, Alastair Davies, for the event. Together they presented on a wide range of topics, from wound management, pain relief and nutrition, to welfare assessment and the importance of goal-oriented enrichment, as well as diagnostic imaging techniques and the use of post-release tracking.

The Greek participants from Rhodes, Crete, Naxos, Kefalonia and other turtle ‘hot spots’ were joined by delegates from the UAE and Sealife Brighton, making a total of just under 30 delegates, which made for lively discussion and exchange of experience and ideas, especially when it came to designing and presenting each organisation’s dream rescue centre!

The trip was also an opportunity for Tania and Matt to assess and assist with some of the more acute clinical cases at ARCHELON, and to use Jack’s expertise to scan the larger female turtles to determine their reproductive status - an incredibly important element to try to understand in terms of species conservation. Matt also managed to get the centre’s anaesthetic machine up and running, which will give the local team greater options for treating the turtles in their care.

As to why male turtles should be released into the sea rather than on the beach, this is because they will not have experienced a beach since they were hatchlings. Only females have later experience of being on sand as they return to lay their eggs. And any turtle that has been given an MRI scan should not be released for at least two weeks, due to the possible disturbance to their navigational abilities resulting from exposure to the strong magnetic fields used for imaging.

A very special thank you goes to Animal Friends Pet Insurance for making the conference possible, and to the wonderful hosts at the Palmyra Beach Hotel for the great facilities and wonderful food!