‘Turtle Care’ at Kelonia is under the supervision of Bernadin Ouaratta, an extremely experienced Reunionnaise who knows the history of each of the turtles, and their likes and dislikes which is extremely useful! He is assisted by a team of five assistants and today he was assisted by Kevin Certat, acting as turtle wrangler and David Atrigo looking after the land-side activities.
First job of the day was indeed the inhabitants of the big display tank who needed their two monthly service: a good scrub, getting weighed and measured, antiseptic treatment for any scrapes they had picked up and a shot of vitamins to keep them in good shape.
First up were the two hawksbills, Croupette and Myriam who Elke greeted like old friends, being very familiar with their cousins in Seychelles.
The next turtle was a female green turtle named Archelon (after the pre-historic giant fossil turtle) and Elke seemed a bit taken aback by the sheer size of 240kgs of marine reptile!
Next was Carotte, the loggerhead turtle who was entirely un-impressed at being manhandled out of her domain by Kevin and who did his best to get back in without any of his health check.
Last and definitely not least was Olive, the Olive Ridley; although she is the second smallest, after the small hawksbill, she was purposely left until last…… We were wondering why when Bernadin explained that while Olive would happily let the team do all the cleaning and health checks, once she was back in the pool she would attack anyone who went in afterwards, and experience had taught him that you do not want to be chased by a ticked-off Olive Ridley!
With Olive successfully taken care of and back in the pool a tired, grubby, bruised and grazed Turtle Chick was ready for the next bit of the programme which was the ‘Ladies’ pedicure day, the ladies in question being the five female green turtles which are currently taking part in a research programme into turtle respiration and energetics under Dr. Manfred Enstipp.
Today’s task was to simply land the five ladies one by one, give their shells a good clean, treat any minor scrapes with antiseptic and then repaint their identifying research programme numbers onto their shells in the appropriate colour nail varnish… all sounds simple and another ideal opportunity for Turtle Chick to get even more grubby with her favourite animals!
Well the simple part wasn’t quite as simple as it all sounded as the lightest of the ‘Ladies’ was 130 kg and pulling them out of the pool was a four man effort!
However, Elke was now a professional carapace cleaner and Bernadin was comfortable to let her treat the scrapes that the turtles suffer, largely from the boisterous attentions of the other ‘Ladies’, with a spray on antiseptic which was a bright blue in colour. Bernadin explained that the untreated abrasions being white tended to attract further attention from the other Ladies, so it was best to treat them with something that didn’t look like it might be food! The wisdom of letting Elke loose with a can of spray on blue antiseptic ‘paint’ probably needed to be re-thought, but it was too late as Turtle Chick was now in Medical Graffiti mode and no turtle was safe! Two of the said Ladies now have bright blue nether regions which I’m sure will cause a stir at the local night-spot!
Final treat for the morning was assisting Manfred prepare one of the Ladies, Elizabeth, for a detachable tag mount which involved sanding a small patch of shell to allow a Velcro patch to be glued into place. This was very similar to the satellite tag mounting process we are familiar with and so Elke was given the job of sanding the shell area. We’re not sure who gave Elke the power-tool with a sanding head, but they must have missed the Medical Grafitti episode a few minutes earlier! Luckily Manfred was there to make sure that all was well and no turtles were harmed in the making of this blog!
It is definitely not wise to give Turtle Chick power tools, David Atrigo looks more than a little worried!
Four species of turtles in two hours was a new record for Elke, as were probably the number of scrapes and bruises she collected in the process! We just hope that Seychelles’ hawksbills are sensible enough to come ashore clean and shiny this season or they may be in for a surprise!