After a long rehabilitation journey, Calvin the green turtle has returned to the wild.
Conservation staff had little hope for the survival of the sea turtle when he was found more 14 months ago, but after passing a final health check with flying colours, he was given the green light to go home.
He had washed up on a Far North beach covered in large lesions and weighing only 11 kilograms.
Auckland Zoo Vet Nurse Celine Campana said, “It was a very, very sick turtle, very underweight and we had concerns for the prognosis”.
Of the seven marine turtle species in the world, five are found in New Zealand waters and are all classified as endangered or critically endangered.
DOC Community Ranger Jamie Werner said, “No turtle should wash ashore in New Zealand, so the fact of the matter is 99 per cent of the time a turtle needs help, and we need to know about it”.
Ms Campana said, “As anyone in conservation knows it requires a team of people with lots of different skills, [Auckland Zoo] can provide part of that then pass onto Kelly Tarlton's who can provide the next step in the treatment journey”.
The Auckland based aquarium’s cared for more than 100 turtles in its time, with upwards of 40 making it back to the wild.
Calvin has now been added to that list, his rehab seeing him gain nine kilograms.
SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Head Curator Andrew Christie said, “To get him this far has not been easy”.
“For over a year, he has endured intensive care from both our staff, and the team at the Auckland Zoo, involving tube feeding, CT scans and numerous blood tests”.
The sea turtle was driven to Rangiputa Beach on the Karikari Peninsuala yesterday for his release, where locals joined in on the farewell.
As soon as he was put in the water, he was away.
“He’s off!”, Kelly Tarlton’s staff were heard saying.
SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarist Madeline Seaman said, “Each turtle is a little different, on occasion they've swum out towards Chile, other times they've gone towards the Firth of Thames”.
“Hopefully he'll hang out in the area here for a while though, it's a beautiful spot to be,” she added.
Calvin’s road ahead is not free from threats, like boats, plastics and other predators, but conservation staff said they were happy to release him.
Mr Christie said, “Reducing plastic, especially the types that can easily end up in oceans and waterways, is vitally important if we are to improve the future prospects of our Sea Turtles and other marine wildlife”.
DOC Threatened Species Ambassador, Erica Wilkinson, supporting that message.
She says, “ingestion of plastic is increasingly the main reason that turtles wash ashore, so please think about single-use plastic and please dispose of it mindfully.”
“Watching Calvin swim into the distance was a huge relief for all of those who have worked tirelessly nursing him back to health, but despite [the] positive outcome, not all turtles are as lucky”, Mr Christie said.
Two Loggerhead sea turtles are still recovering at the Auckland aquarium, and it’s hoped that one day they too will be released back into the sea.