Oscar and Kiwa, two Green sea turtles were released off the coast of Tutukaka, in the Poor Knights marine reserve.
Named ‘Oscar the Grouch’ and ‘Kiwa’ (one of several male guardians of the oceans), both turtles have spent a combined 1,190 days in rehabilitation at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Turtle Rehabilitation centre.
Oscar – who is known for his happy disposition and large appetite – was found on 90 Mile beach suffering from infected fractures on his rear flippers, cold shock and he was underweight.
Kiwa – who loves a good back scratch - was also suffering from dehydration, cold shock and was underweight with a severe eye infection.
Thankfully, through months of intensive rehabilitation, Oscar and Kiwa have passed their final health checks with flying colours including gaining a combined 15 kilograms, bringing them both up a healthy weight range.
For the past few months, Oscar and Kiwa – along with three other rescued turtles – have been on display in the attraction’s Turtle Rescue experience, serving as ambassadors for the marine species.
Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Curator, Andrew Christie, said it is always rewarding to see journeys like these come to a positive end particularly after many months of rehabilitation.
“Watching Oscar and Kiwa swim into the distance was certainly a very happy sight for the team who have worked tirelessly in keeping these turtles alive and nursing them back to full health. Both turtles have such vibrant and happy personalities and their presence will definitely be missed,” said Mr Christie.
“Despite today’s positive outcome, not all turtles are as lucky. Turtles face a number of threats in the wild including boat strikes and accidental plastic ingestion or entanglement. At Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s we aim to educate the public on the threats turtles face and encourage behavioral change by choosing to reuse being mindful of plastic pollution.”
For the past 20 years, Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Turtle Rehabilitation centre has rehabilitated and released more than 50 turtles and is New Zealand’s only turtle rehabilitation centre. There is now an experienced and dedicated team that works with these amazing creatures. The affectionately known Turtle Rescue Team is made up of Sea life Kelly Tarlton’s, Auckland Zoo and the Department of Conservation with a special mention to Air New Zealand.
In support of the attraction’s Turtle Rehabilitation centre, Kelly Tarlton’s has partnered with Countdown, the first supermarket to commit to going plastic free. On Oscar and Kiwa’s release day, Countdown’s Whangarei stores went plastic-bag free, giving away more than 15,000 reusable bags to their shoppers.
Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager Corporate Affairs, says Countdown is very proud to have partnered with Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s Turtle Rehabilitation programme.
“Countdown was the first supermarket in New Zealand to commit to phasing out single use plastic carrier bags from our checkouts and online shopping by the end of this year. We know it’s just one step and there’s more to do to reduce plastic pollution,” says Kiri Hannifin.
Of the seven marine turtle species, five are found in New Zealand waters and all of them are either endangered or critically endangered. Experiences like Turtle Rescue help educate the broader public on how their behaviour in and around the water can impact local marine life.
Turtle Rescue and Turtle Rehabilitation centre also aim to educate Kiwis on the important story around what type of turtles inhabit our coastlines, why and how they got here and where the turtles go once they are released.