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SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium

23 Tamaki Drive, Ōrākei

Auckland 1071

New Zealand

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Open Times

We are open!
Regular days of operation: Thursday - Monday Bookings are essential - purchase your tickets online 24 hours in advance with a discount of 20%!
SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium

Turtle Rehabilitation

SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's


SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Turtle Conservation Program

Rescue, Rehabilitate, Release.

Did you know that Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's is the only place in New Zeland that rehabilitates rescued turtles? Discover how we work with these amazing creatures in the all-new Turtle Bay!

Of the 7 species of marine turtles, 5 can be found in New Zealand's waters, all of which are classed as endangered, with some being on the verge of extinction. Turtles are generally found in warmer tropical waters but can get washed into colder areas if they are weak from injury or sickness.

Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's voluntarily started a Turtle Rehabilitation Program in 1995 where we treat sick or injured turtles found around New Zealand's waters. Green Turtles are the species most commonly brought to Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's, however, we have treated Hawksbill, Olive Ridley and Loggerhead turtles as well.

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Caring for Turtles

Turtles brought into Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's most commonly suffer from dehydration, cold shock, and starvation. Other issues include missing limbs or large wounds, bacterial infections and fish hook or plastic pollution ingestion, to name a few.

We work closely with NZCCM (New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine) based at the Auckland Zoo, where sick turtles get given a thorough assessment which usually involves x-rays, administering fluids for rehydration and antibiotics to fight infections. Once the cause of the illness or injury is discovered, the turtles are then treated and monitored in quarantine at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's.

To ensure that the turtles are fully rehabilitated before releasing them back into the ocean, Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's provides a temporary home for these amazing creatures for a period of time ranging between a few months to 3 years. Their time with us is usually spent in our larger fish or stingray tanks, where they are known to chase our divers around for food!

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Back into the Wild!

Once the weather becomes warm enough for release, the turtles are tagged either on their flippers or satellite tagged on their shells. This is done as it allows us to learn more about the habits and migration of these incredible animals. Then Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's and the Sea Life Trust release the turtles back into the wild. Turtles are often released around the Kermedec Island, which is north of New Zealand, or the Poor Knights Island Marine Reserve.

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Found sea life needing help?

Who to call if you find a sick turtle needing help Who to call if you find a sick turtle needing help If you see a turtle that is sick, injured or in distress contact your local Department of Conservation office on 0800 DOC HOT

Report 1 or 2 sick, injured or distressed animals
Ring the Department of Conservation emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Report a group (3 or more) of sick, injured or distressed animals
Ring the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) pest and disease hotline 0800 80 99 66.

Report whale or dolphin strandings
Ring the Department of Conservation emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

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Report Illegal Activity

Ring the Department of Conservation emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Illegal activity includes:

  • disturbing marine mammals
  • illegal whitebaiting
  • fishing in marine reserves
  • killing or catching native wildlife

For more information, please visit the Department of Conservation's website.


Identify a Species

We don't typically provide animal species identification services. If you have a photo of a species you want to identify or record, we recommend you use the iNaturalist website to report your observation. On NatureWatch you can upload your photos as 'observations', and ask for help in identifying any species you find. Experts including Department of Conservation staff who are regularly on NatureWatch to provide help.

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Sea Life Trust


Our Animals