Recovery of Two Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) Found Entangled in Fishing Gear Off Madeira (Portugal)
IAAAM Archive
Fernando Santos1; Isabel Quaresma1; Cláudia Delgado2,3; Telma Ferreira2,3; Thomas Dellinger2,3
1'VETMÈDIS' Clínica Médico Veterinária, Sítio da Torre. 9200 Machico, Madeira. Portugal; 2University of Madeira, Marine Biology and Oceanography Lab, 'Madeira Marine Turtles Project', Estação de Biologia Marinha do Funchal, Promenade da Orla Marítima, Cais do Carvão, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal; 3BioMAR - Centro de Ciências Biológicas e Geológica - Edifício da Penteada, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal


Sea turtles are considered to be threatened or endangered and are protected by various conventions worldwide. The 'Madeira Marine Turtles Project', at University of Madeira, accepts injured sea turtles delivered by fishermen, tourism boats or captured by the Project's routine work out in the sea. From 1994 to 2001 about 8,5 % of the turtles received needed medical care. In 2001 seven of the eight turtles received were victims of entanglement in fishing gear. Two loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) presented severe injuries on the right front flipper caused by entanglement in ropes and monofilament lines which constricted the blood supply and resulted in tissue necrosis. The turtles were also underweight.

In the first case amputation was the only option due to irreversible lost of tissues, resulting in phalangeal and metacarpal exposition. On the second turtle tissue recovery was attempted before deciding for amputation. Antibiotic therapy used was a twice-daily topical application of bacitracine and enrofloxacin injected intramuscularly in the opposite front flipper. A lamp was used to warm up the area in order to facilitate bacitracine absorption. After three weeks flipper condition deteriorated with extended necrosis and septicaemia danger and once more we opted for amputation.

In both cases, radiographs showed a fracture on the humerus diaphysis. Surgery was performed in 'Vetmédis', a private pet clinic. Inhalant anesthesia with isoflurane was used for inducing and maintaining anesthesia, delivered via a closed circuit system. Nitrous oxide-oxygen was used before adding the volatile gas. Also a field block with infiltrated 2% lidocaine was applied. Fore flipper was removed via the scapulo-humeral disarticulation.

Turtles were kept for 4-5 weeks at Marine Biology Station of Funchal, for recovery. They were kept in dry containers to facilitate scar healing. Sea turtles do not eat out of water thus a sterile 5% glucose solution was administrated via intracoelomic route, at a rate of 20 ml/kg/24h. A light coating of Vaseline-like ointment was used to avoid drying of the shell and skin.

The same antibiotic therapy used before surgery was applied to both turtles during the post-operatory period. After 4 weeks the turtles were placed in seawater tanks to test for buoyancy anomalies. While in the tanks they were fed with Chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus).

In spite the lack of the right front flipper turtles were not heavily impaired. In fact since 1994 the Project team captured several turtles that were missing one of the flippers, in healthy conditions. Turtles were released after their 5th week, as soon as they recovered weight.

The recovery of injured wildlife is not common in Madeira due to the absence of facilities and specialized veterinarians. To our knowledge this was the first time a surgical procedure was performed upon a wild animal and was only possible due to collaboration between the 'Marine Turtles Project' and 'Vetmédis'.


The authors wish to thank to Afonso Rocha and José Barradas (Univ. of Madeira staff) and to all the people who cooperated with the Project, fishermen and others.

Speaker Information
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Fernando Santos

Isabel Quaresma

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