Saving Olive

A little over a month ago, my friends Ron, Mate and I met this female olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea):

olive ridley turtle entangled ghost net
Female olive ridley turtle, entangled in ghost fishing net (License image)

Placid though her expression might seem, this particular marine reptile wasn't happy. Nope.

Visible behind her is a portion of an enormous fishing net and associated junk, accumulated flotsam and jetsam meandering across the ocean, a malevolent manmade mesh biding its time, seeking out opportunities to ensnare unsuspecting marine life.

Left alone, this turtle would most likely have died, carapace and rear limbs lassoed by line, her body baking in the hot sun until she literally cooked in her shell.

By sheer chance, my friends and I came across the net and freed her. I was concerned that she might panic and bolt after her ordeal, so we stayed several metres away while Ron carefully cut lines one-by-one. I felt it best to give her space and to be able to move quickly to avoid potential collision if she freaked out.

After we cut her loose though, the turtle seemed calm. She swam toward me, directly into me a few times, then under me, then alongside. I suspect her actions had less to do with "friendliness and gratitude" as it might be tempting to think, and more to do with exhaustion, weariness, and disorientation.

In any event, I stroked her shell as she regained her composure, until she was finally able to summon enough strength to dive. She was weak, particularly her rear left flipper, but she was able to descend beyond visible depth (very slowly), which was a positive sign.

I can't be sure what happened to her. From her condition, my guess is that she hadn't been entangled for too long, perhaps a day or two. I want—really want—to believe that she made it, that she's swimming happily along now, and that she's learned to stay away from our garbage. 

olive ridley turtle after being freed from ghost net
Olive ridley turtle regaining her composure after being freed from net (License image)

We weren't, unfortunately, able to remove the net. The accumulated mass of line, buoys, plastic, and other junk was many, many, many times the size of the boat I was in. So, even if I can't be sure if the olive ridley is still out there, I can be reasonably certain that the ghost net is. Waiting for more unwary victims.

Related posts about #floatingdeath: Lost and Found, Floating Death, Green Turtle. Dead.Such Garbage