Go back to blog
Team Turtle rejoices as a trio of rehabilitated sea turtles at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium return to the ocean
- Tuesday 5th April 2022
- SEA LIFE Kelly Tarltons
Three rescued sea turtles have been released back into the ocean after undergoing successful rehabilitation stints at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium with the veterinary support of Auckland Zoo.
Team Turtle were joined by kaumatua of Ngātiwai and students from Te Kura o Waikare for the heart-warming release of Puck, Taka and Delta who returned to the ocean at Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve.
Puck is a loggerhead sea turtle who was found washed up on 90 Mile Beach in July 2020. Found while a young hatchling, Puck was covered in large goose barnacles and even a hitchhiking crab! Initially treated at Auckland Zoo’s veterinary hospital, Puck arrived to SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s weighing just 180g and measuring 9cm long. It is very uncommon to see turtle hatchlings in New Zealand due to the cold water temperatures. The goal of Team Turtle was to help Puck grow big and strong enough to be released back into the ocean, and now at a very healthy 2.2kg Puck is ready to return home.
Taka is an eastern Pacific green sea turtle who was found washed up on Takapuna Beach in May 2020. In a critically ill condition (he had pneumonia and system infection), he was brought into Auckland Zoo’s vet hospital by Department of Conservation staff for urgent treatment and stabilisation, ahead of moving to SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s for long-term rehabilitation. Taka then stopped using his front left flipper and CT scans revealed he had an infection of the bone. Following a range of intensive treatments and care Taka regained full use of this flipper and scans confirmed that the infection has cleared. Taka, who weighed just 26kg when found, now weighs a massive 52kg and is ready to be released back into the ocean.
Delta is a green sea turtles who washed up on Piha Beach in September 2021 looking and feeling very lethargic and covered in algae with suspected cold shock. After urgent treatment and stabilisation at Auckland Zoo, Delta arrived at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s weighing 9.8kg and after lots of TLC from the team, has increased her body temperature, is eating well and now weighs a healthy 14kg. Delta has been thriving in Turtle Bay alongside the others prior to her ocean release.
Although turtles breed in the tropics and subtropics, five of the seven turtle species are seen in New Zealand waters. Team Turtle urges people to report injured or stranded turtles to the DOC emergency hotline on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
According to Andrew Christie, Curator at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s, the annual turtle release is always an incredibly rewarding experience and this year was no different.
“It’s always a bittersweet occasion when we release turtles back into the ocean after dedicating so much time and effort into rehabilitating them. Of course it is unavoidable that the team develop strong bonds and really care for these turtles, so today is full of mixed emotions as we say goodbye to our friends, but know that we release them with the best chance for them to thrive in the wild and live long healthy lives. We have given them another chance which they otherwise wouldn’t have had.,” said Andrew Christie.
“Loggerhead, Eastern Pacific green, and green sea turtle species are all endangered in the wild, so it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to work together with DOC and SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s to give these individual animals a second chance at life,” says Auckland Zoo vet nurse, Celine Campana, who has been involved in sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation, and field conservation for many years.
“These are also very long-lived marine species, so given the right conditions out there in the wild, each of these three animals has the opportunity to go on and reproduce and contribute to the future of its species population – which is what we all hope they’ll get to do!”
SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s is home to New Zealand’s only Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, which has rehabilitated and released over 50 sea turtles over the past 23 years. The Aquarium is part of Team Turtle, which also includes Auckland Zoo and the Department of Conservation.
Puck, Taka and Delta were first treated at Auckland Zoo’s Centre for Conservation Medicine before moving to SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium for their rehabilitation. At the aquarium they were ambassadors for their species, helping educate guests on the need for conservation and protection. Now that the trio have returned to the ocean, Turtle Bay is still a temporary home to rescued sea turtles until they too are ready to return to sea.