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Citizen Science, marine turtles and vets

on 11 de juny de 2018

Thanks to a Citizen Science project run by the Egyptian NGO HEPCA in the Red Sea, Submon’s veterinarians are currently following the case of a marine turtle injured by a propeller in the Red Sea, assessing its evolution over time without any handling or medical treatment.

Meet Altea, a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) that lives in Abu Dabbab, in the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea. Here, the NGO HEPCA leads the TurtleWatch Egypt Citizen Science program, in which tourists and dive guides send pictures and information on the sea turtles they find during their diving and snorkelling trips along the coast.

Altea, the green sea turtle of our story

End of April, tourists visiting the area sent pictures of Altea with a large carapace fracture, most probably caused by a propeller. There is no rehabilitation centre in that area, and together with the vets at SUBMON, it was decided not to intervene but to leave the animal alone and closely follow its evolution over time. Tourism operators and tourists in the area were asked for cooperation, and pictures and videos of the animal have arrived every week since then. The team of TurtleWatch Egypt and HEPCA also visit the area frequently to assess the animal.

The fracture on April 28th

So far the fracture seems to be healing nicely, and unexpectedly fast, without any obvious complications. Altea is behaving and eating normally, and maintains her body condition.

The fracture on May 14th

After 2 weeks the fracture filled up with a yellowish tissue, and it was obvious that the area was painful, as Altea was not cleaning itself around the fracture. But 2 weeks later things seemed to be improving, the fracture looked clean, and the algae had disappeared from the wound area.

Altea’s carapace on May 25th

There is probably still a long way to go before we can definitely say that Altea has survived this interaction, but this experience proves how powerful tools for research, awareness and conservation Citizen Science projects can become. And it definitely confirms that not all injured turtles have to be rushed to captivity, especially if there are no specialized and equipped rescue centres to treat the animal with minimal standards.

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