In June the vets at the International Animal Rescue centre in Goa had an unusual patient in the form of a giant Hawksbill sea turtle. The 100+kg turtle had washed up on the beach in Anjuna, North Goa two days before and been picked up by another local NGO – Green Cross – when they were notified by locals who found the animal on the shore. Knowing that IAR has sophisticated equipment at the centre enabling us to examine all kinds of animals thoroughly, the Green Cross staff brought the turtle to the clinic.
Dr Nikhil was working on his own and was busy stitching up a wound on a dog when the turtle arrived but luckily it was not long before he could attend to it. He did a full examination of the animal and at first glance could not determine any abnormalities, although he did not rule out that it might have an abscess in its throat. It was very weak and it was thought that perhaps it had been carried away from its usual territory by the current when it came out of hibernation. At this time of the year these animals have very little resilience because their reserves are depleted (this possibility was later ruled out). This is the first time on record that a Hawksbill sea turtle has been found along the coast of Goa.
It was decided that the turtle was to be given a more thorough examination the following morning when more staff would be on duty to help – after all a 100kg turtle takes a few people to carry and hold! In the meantime Green Cross were to keep the animal safe and they were advised to try to feed it a little to increase its strength. The following day the turtle was brought back and a full set of x-rays was taken to determine whether anything had caused it to become so weak. The x-rays all came out clear and the next step was to determine whether the turtle was able to swim so it could be returned to the sea once it had gathered some strength. It was taken by Dr Nikhil and Green Cross staff to a pool nearby and no sooner had it been dropped in the water than it was swimming without any apparent effort. However as it was still so weak it was returned to the care of Green Cross where it would be fed and cared for until it was fit and strong enough to be returned to its natural habitat – and would hopefully find its way back into familiar waters.