Update – Sea Turtle Rescue – 22 December 2022

Sadly, the injured turtle we were able to hand off to members of a Curaçao conservation team could not be saved. They also confirmed our suspicion that her injuries were definitively characteristic of an engine propeller wound. Watercraft-rated injuries and deaths of sea and fresh water turtles are not uncommon and correlate with the number of registered craft in an area. Studies of stranded sea turtles indicate that as much as a third of the turtles had been injured from an encounter with a vessel. The overall incidence is likely much higher as many die in the water https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jwmg.21665

Sea Turtle Rescue

Mid-morning, while relaxing in our cockpit with steaming hot tea, George spotted a turtle. It doesn’t matter how often you see them, it is always a treat.

Mural in Curaçao capturing the charm and our fascination with sea turtles

In this case, unfortunately, it did not take long to see the turtle had some serious damage to its shell and appeared to be lifeless.  The turtle shell bobbed along, being propelled by the current, waves, and wind for half an hour, or so.

At times I saw a flipper above the water.  Each time I hoped perhaps it was still alive, but the flipper would fall back and again, and all that was visible above the water was it’s damaged shell.

Then, just for a moment, I thought I spotted “her” raise her head.  I kept watching and was certain of what I saw the second time. She was breathing.  George and I quickly hopped in the dinghy and slowly approached her.  As we neared, she left no doubt that she was alive, albeit very weak, as she attempted to dive below the water to distance herself from us.

Approaching a boat anchored beside us, we asked if they knew if there was an animal rescue center on the Island.  Jimmie and Judy on Poppycock responded that they didn’t, but did offer there was a large aquarium.  A quick Google search later we found a phone number and a gentleman from the aquarium took our phone number and offered to connect us with a wildlife conservation team.

The turtle was now drifting closer to shore and we feared she would be pushed by waves into the rocks along the shore.  George approached her again in the dinghy and successfully guided her further out.  Shortly afterward, we lost sight of her and, although George searched very carefully for her, she appeared to be gone.

It had been about an hour since we saw her last when a member of the conservation team called and advised us that it could be several hours before they could get out to our boat.  George was just explaining that we had not seen her for at least an hour when there she was again.

The conservation team member let us know they could come immediately if we could capture the turtle and bring her to shore. Concern that we would lose her again encouraged us to try to catch her.  We knew the dinghy engine would spook her so George agreed to attempt to paddle to her.  If we could get close enough to her, I would try to catch her in our fishing net.

IT WORKED!  She was a big turtle but we managed to get her in the dinghy. The only issue now was that the wind and tide was pushing us further and further from our sailboat, Ice Floe. Under the best of circumstances it is difficult to paddle the dinghy, we could not get there against the wind. in our haste, we had forgotten to get the dinghy engine key.

Her shell was very badly damaged and her right front flipper was torn on the underside
She offered no resistance

I hailed a boat nearby and a man approached us to offer assistance just as George remembered he had had hidden a spare key for the dinghy engine. Felt a bit foolish, especially as George has been quizzing me repeatedly over the last week to make sure I remember where he had hidden the key.

George wet a towel and draped it over her and we brought her to shore. The rescue team told him that was exactly the thing to do (he always knows what’s best)

This marvelous turtle is now in the hands of a vet and members of the conservation team.  They said they will keep us apprised of how she does.  We’ll let you know. 

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