Piha rescue! Can we help turtles kick their plastic habit by kicking ours?


MARKETING EFFECTIVENESS Piha rescue! Can we help turtles kick their plastic habit by kicking ours?

Comments (4) /

mmWritten by:14 September 2021

I’d savoured my first sip of espresso on Saturday when a mate rang to say they’d found a turtle, swept by huge swells onto our local beach at Piha. We rang the Department of Conservation (DoC) and, with the help of a texted photo, they quickly confirmed our turtle needed expert vet care at Auckland Zoo.

An endangered species, green sea turtles beach on our shores in Aotearoa when they’re distressed, to avoid drowning or because they are too weak to battle big surf. This distress is often because they have eaten gut-clogging or stomach-puncturing plastic, instead of seaweed or jellyfish.

A taste for balloons

The zoo could tell our turtle was distressed, not just because it had washed up, but because the photo we sent DoC showed it had algae growing over it and barnacles had started to attach to its flippers. As WWF-Australia explain in this, the barnacles are a sign of ill-health. The turtle they feature in the story, with the laxative help of an oily fish meal, pooed both a balloon on a plastic string and the remains of a plastic bag. It recovered well and was freed. If it can kick its plastics habit, it might live to be over 80 years old. Turtles aren’t always so lucky. A hawksbill sea turtle that came ashore at Mangonui, New Zealand and couldn’t be saved was found by Auckland Zoo to have enough plastic inside her “to fill a one-liter container – everything from plastic bags and packaging to twine, netting, velcro, a piece of a balloon, and a water bottle top.” Her intestines had blocked and stopped working, her system shut down and she starved. A third of turtles found dead on New Zealand beaches have eaten plastic.

The end of single-use plastic bags in Aotearoa is good news for turtles, and with some further single-use plastics, including polystyrene food packaging, cotton buds, fruit labels, and disposable cutlery set to be outlawed, from late 2022, there should soon be around 2 billion fewer single-use plastic items in our landfills and environment each year. But with every kiwi dumping 159gsm of plastic every day, we need to do even more.

Rethink plastic for the turtles and your business

If your business produces or buys single-use plastic or packages anything in it, it’s time to rethink. Not just for the turtles around our shores, but to keep your social license to trade. Public acceptance of plastic in Aotearoa fell further after the single-use bag ban, with 69% highly concerned about plastic’s build-up in our environment. There’s a need to innovate and, from November 2021, $50m available in grants to help companies adapt. You can also get support and inspiration through the Sustainable Business Network’s packaging workshop and circular economy programme. If you’re not in charge of packaging, products, and marketing at your workplace, ask your bosses questions and tell them with confidence your customers do care.

My mate and I watched over our Piha turtle, fending off a curious dog and updating walkers until our local Ranger could get there. The turtle is now at Auckland Zoo and we’re waiting for news. (See comments below for updates. The turtle recovered and was released 31 March 2022.)

We’re hoping with expert care – rehydrating, slowly warming, trying to diagnose and if needed treat our turtle – it can be nurtured back to health and released again, like green turtle Spock which beached up the coast in Muriwai last September and was returned to the ocean in March 2021.

If you find a turtle on a beach in Aotearoa call DoC immediately on 0800 (HOT DOC) 362 468.

And pick up plastic from our beaches – but not when you shop.

Read about some of the plastic-free pioneer brands we’ve helped with their marketing or contact us to talk about your business needs.

4 Responses to " Piha rescue! Can we help turtles kick their plastic habit by kicking ours? "

  1. Kath, GoodSense says:

    We’ve just been told by Auckland Zoo our turtle / honu is doing okay at the moment, has been slowly warmed up and is now swimming and resting under the water. The zoo have been giving it lots of fluids and started some liquid food too. Blood tests show some infection and have started treatment. It’s early days but hopeful!! YAY 😀

  2. Kath Dewar, GoodSense says:

    An update on our turtle from Auckland Zoo 24 Sept 2021 >
    “Life is looking up for a critically ill green sea turtle found stranded on Auckland’s Piha Beach after almost two weeks of intensive care and treatment by our skilled and passionate veterinary team.

    Nick-named Delta by our team, this sub-adult turtle, was found on 11 September by a member of public and brought into the Zoo’s veterinary hospital by Auckland Council rangers. While she had no physical wounds, she was in extremely poor body condition, underweight at 9.5kg with a sunken in plastron (tummy), covered in algae and barnacles, and at the critically low body temperature of just 14.5 degrees.

    Placing Delta in a tank with dripping water to get her slowly warmed up to 25 degrees to enable her body to start metabolising again, giving her fluids and pain relief, and taking X-rays and bloods were the team’s first priorities. Following this, they also began tube-feeding her an easy-to-digest liquidised food.

    “Delta’s blood test results revealed elevated white blood cell levels, which indicates systemic inflammation, and her X-rays showed abnormal grey mottled patterning on her lungs,” says vet nurse Celine.

    “We’ve seen pulmonary disease in these turtles before, and we think it likely that Delta has pneumonia. It is treatable with antibiotic and anti-fungal medications, but it does take quite a few months to successfully treat.”

    “She’s a really lovely and calm turtle, and having got her stabilised, on Wednesday (22 September) it was great to be able to have our conservation colleagues at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s come and collect her for ongoing rehabilitation,” explains Celine.

    Fortunately, Delta soon showed she was strong enough to be moved to a swimming tank.

    “It was so heartening to see her able to swim down and rest on the bottom of our larger tank for good periods of time, as it showed us she had enough lung capacity.”
    Full story here > https://www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/news/sea-turtle-gets-second-chance-at-life

  3. kath Dewar says:

    Looking well recuperating pre re-release at Kelly Tarltons – featured on TV3 The Project 14 Nov 2021

  4. mm Kath Dewar says:

    On 31st March Delta, along with two other recuperating turtles, was released back into the wild Pacific under the supervision of Tutukaka area iwi, Ngātiwai, with a pōwhiri ashore, a karakia at sea and swam away to the glorious waiata of the tamariki / children of Te Kura o Waikare. Delta looked a stunning, weighed a healthy 14kg and energetically scrabbled on the deck of the boat, keen to be back in the ocean. Lowered into the water, with a whoosh, our honu was gone. If Delta can avoid abandoned fish-hooks and floating plastic, this Piha rescued turtle might live another eighty years or more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *