Clinical Management for Plastic Ingestion by a Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), From Ceará State, NE Brazil
IAAAM Archive
Bianca De Luca Altieri; Katherine Friedler Choi; Antônio Carlos Amâncio; Thais Moura Campos
Associação de Pesquisa e Preservação de Ecossistemas Aquáticos
Ceará State, Brazil


On 03 September 2006 a live green sea turtle was rescued by the Aquasis´s rescue crew on Barra Nova beach, Cascavel county. The animal was an adult male of curved length 110 cm and of curved width 102,5cm. The animal was unable to swim, visibly dehydrated, and died at the Aquasis's rehabilitation center 58 days after being rescued. During gross necropsy, one whole plastic bag, pieces of plastic bags, plastic bottle lids, and cardboards pieces, making a total of 63 g of dried content, were found in the whole intestinal tract. The mucosa had several hemorrhagic points. During the rehabilitation period, radiographs, endoscopy and blood examinations were done to determine the cause of the intense animal prostration. Both the radiograph with radiopaque material and endoscopic examination indicated obstructive content in its stomach chamber. After the clinical diagnosis of digestive tract obstruction, a five hour surgery was performed to remove the contents. During the surgical procedure, 800g of undigested and putrid food was taken from the stomach chamber through the esophageal incision. The animal recovered well from the procedure with optimal respiratory movements. On the subsequent days, the animal was fed 100 ml diet based on electrolytes and Ensure® twice daily via nasogastric tube. In Brazil, this kind of surgery is uncommon and only performed in small sea turtles. Reidarson and authors (1994), suggest that the medical treatment for foreign objects in sea turtles should consist only of enemas, parenteral fluids, water and petroleum laxatives via a stomach tube.

Ingestion of plastic debris is known from fishes, seabirds, turtles and marine mammals (Derraik, 2002). The ingestion of plastic debris by sea turtles is not well understood, they may eat it by mistake since it resembles some of their algae species, or ingest it along with a food item (Walker and Coe, 1990). The cases of plastic ingestion are strongly underestimated, since many specimens are not made available for post-mortem analysis (Barreiros, 2001). In Brazil, these pollutants have been found in the stomach of the sea turtles Chelonia mydas, Caretta caretta, Dermochelys coriacea and Lepidochelys olivacea (Bugoni et al., 2001; Mascarenhas et al., 2004). In Ceará State, the incorrect disposal of solid waste is one of the major threats to the coastal zone (Aquasis, 2003). Urgent measures are required to minimize this threat to coastal marine animals, such as legal instruments, enforcement and educational campaigns.


The authors would like to thanks to DVM Catia Nascimento for the volunteer endoscopic examination, to Vetnil Veterinarian Medicine Laboratories as Aquasis partner and Marine Sea Turtle Project (Tamar /Ibama).


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Bianca De Luca Altieri

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