Feature: Greek volunteers help Caretta caretta injured sea turtles to gain new life

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-17 00:41:15|Editor: Liangyu
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A turtle is seen in a tank, at "Archelon" Sea Turtle Protection Society Rescue Centre, in Glyfada suburb of Athens, Greece, on June 15, 2018. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

By Alexia Vlachou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou

ATHENS, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Olympia, a "Caretta caretta" sea turtle traced in Kyparissia bay, in the western part of Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece, is one of the hundreds injured sea turtles that has found refuge at Archelon Rescue Center at Glyfada, in the southern suburb of Athens.

Hugo Gilbert, a 20-year-old volunteer from France, has taken over her medication and food program. His task is to get her stronger again to return to the natural environment.

"We do not know yet what her problem is, but we assume she has a fishing line in her guts. The X- Rays did not show anything like a hook. That is a good sign. But she may have a fishing line, that is why I give her food to help her like evacuating the fishing line," Gilbert told Xinhua on Friday.

Founded in 1994, the Sea Turtle Rescue Center of Archelon rehabilitates injured and sick sea turtles and raises public awareness through its activities. Over 90 sea turtles are treated every year at the rescue center.

"The majority of the turtles come to the rescue center due to fishing gear entanglement, ingestion of hooks and deliberate human activities. In 2017, a 40-45 percent of the cases had skull injuries," Rescue Center Project Officer, Dimitris Fytilis told Xinhua.

Among the threats sea turtles face is to become entangled in plastic trash or to eat plastic bags, as he pointed out.

Three species of sea turtles frequent the Mediterranean: the leatherback turtle, the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta).

Greece is the most popular nesting site along the Mediterranean, with more than 3,000 nests per year.

The main reproduction areas of Caretta caretta, which is listed as an endangered species within the EU boundaries, are found in Zakynthos island in western Greece, Peloponnese and in Crete Island. The incubation period for the eggs is about 2 months.

According to Fytilis, every year over 2,500 up to 3,000 nests are protected against human threats, predation and sea inundation.

"In every nest, there are 100 to 120 eggs, from which only one to three little turtles will survive. So, we must protect the incubation areas from human activities like the beach chairs, or the beach bars, the noise, and the light pollution, and from their natural enemies which are dogs and foxes," Fytilis stressed.

The work at Archelon relies heavily on voluntary work. Every year over 600 volunteers from all over the world come and help with the work on the nesting beaches and the Rescue Centre.

"Basically, we spend the day treating their injuries, giving them drips and injections just to get them stronger and any infection they might have inside the body, clean the tale and the tanks and monitor their behavior and then feed them and when they are better hopefully release them back in the wild," volunteer from Manchester Hannah Rolland told Xinhua.

For Rolland, the rescue center is like a family. She came last year for the first time, spent a month and changed her flights to stay a week longer, because she did not want to go home. This year, she finished her studies on Wildlife Conservation and returned to offer her help again for another month.

"It is so rewarding just to know we are making a difference. When you get to release a turtle that you have looked after, it is amazing," she said.

She feels angry and disappointed with people when she sees the injured ones.

"It can make you really frustrated, especially when the turtle cannot make it which unfortunately does happen sometimes. It is not something we can do. You have to keep on. It kindly reminds you why we are here. These animal lives lie in our hands," she noted.

For Gilbert, the most important thing for every turtle is to be released.

"I only witnessed a beach release, so we just put the turtle on the sand and she crawled to the sea. When you see her disappear in the waves, that is the most beautiful thing, because you work with that turtle for months and finally see the results of your work and that is priceless," he said.

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