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Hawksbill Turtle Rescues in Belize

Hawksbill Turtle Rescues – “Protecting Turtles Today for Tomorrow” – Our beautiful Barrier Reef is home to many sea creatures and marine life is abundant and rich! It is the home of one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world; the Hawksbill Turtle.

Sea turtles are very important for Belize’s tourism industry, therefore it is essential to maintain a healthy population of turtles within our waters. With this in mind The Belize Turtle Watch Program was launched in March 2011 with the goal of establishing a baseline data set on in-water abundance and nesting beach activity so that changes over time, especially those caused by climate change, can be measured.

ECOMAR, in partnership with the Belize Fisheries Department and with support from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) and the Gulf & Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI), aims to increase the level of knowledge on sea turtles in Belize significantly.?  

Their slogan “Protecting Turtles Today for Tomorrow” is what they go by and they do everything they can to protect turtles, educate people about the importance of protecting them and collecting data about them. In the month of January three turtles were found stranded, were rescued and are now being rehabilitated.

Hopkins Turtle Rescue

On Wednesday, January 25, 2012, a sick Hawksbill turtle was rescued near Hopkins Beach and after being rescued it is now being rehabilitated at the Hol Chan Marine Office in San Pedro Town.

The sea turtle was found by Judell Nuñez and his father as they were hauling out a boat at Hopkins Beach. She was floating in the sea close to shore and after being pulled out to the beach, Alicia Eck, Manager at Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, a Hopkins resident, was notified.

The turtle was taken to Belize City on Thursday, January 26, 2012, to the Belize Fisheries Department where Kirah Forman from Hol Chan Marine Reserve along with a team of ECOMAR and the Fisheries Department began the rehabilitation process for the turtle. The turtle weighed 65.2 pounds and measured 68 centimeters in length.

The turtle is currently being taken care off at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Office here in San Pedro. The turtle was very weak and not moving much; she is being rehydrated using saline, antibiotics and vitamins. The turtle was cleaned and all barnacles have been removed after a few weeks and when it begins to feed on its own the turtle will be taken to Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve for further rehabilitation and later released to the wild.

Hawksbill Turtle found by Judell Nuñez at HopkinsThe turtle was taken care by Alicia Eck, Manager at Glover's Reef Marine ReserveKirah Forman of Hol Chan Marine Reserve and other volunteers helping to clean up barnacles from the turtle.The turtle at Hol Chan Marine Reserve for Rehabilitation

Windy the Flying Turtle! Tropic Air to the Rescue
A mature female Hawksbill turtle was found a few days ago in distress in the waters off Punta Gorda. She was spotted by a dive boat which reported it to the Toledo Institute of Development and the Environment (TIDE).

Windy – as she was named was having problems with buoyancy, she couldn’t dive. According to James Foley of TIDE, Windy was extremely buoyant at the rear end and suspected that she had some kind of gas build up inside her shell. It is believe she ingested plastic which was causing blockage in her intestine leading to a bacterial infection and gas build up. With this diving problem Windy was unable to dive down for food.

After her rescue, Windy needed to be transported to Belize City for rehabilitation and that’s how Windy became the first flying turtle. Tropic Air (The Airline of Belize) was kind enough to donate a flight for Windy and Science Director, James Foley, to transport Windy.

“Thank you so much to Tropic Air for donating the flight; TIDE would like to extend their thanks for that,” stated Foley to Belize City’s 7 News. “We were very worried because we thought maybe the altitude might have some impacts, but they were able to redirect the plane, thankfully. It was going to Belmopan, which would have meant going over the hills, but we stopped in Placencia, and then came directly here. The pilot very kindly flew at a lower altitude the entire way.”

In the meantime Windy is being treated at Belize City and will be brought to San Pedro later on for further rehabilitation.

Windy the turtle just being rescued!Windy was transported from Punta Gorda to Belize City by Tropic Air.Windy the flying turtle!Windy being rehabilitated at The Belize Fisheries CompundWindy - The Hawksbill Turtle - Curved Carapace Length = 89cm and weighs almost 200 pounds

The Hawksbill Turtle
The Hawksbill Turtle is an endangered species around the world and it is illegal to hunt or sell its meat.

Fast Facts
Type: Reptile
Diet: Carnivore
Average life span in the wild: 30 to 50 years (est.)
Size: 24 to 45 in (62.5 to 114 cm)
Weight: 100 to 150 lbs (45 to 68 kg)
Protection status: Endangered

They are normally found near reefs rich in the sponges they like to feed on. Hawksbills are omnivorous and will also eat mollusks, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish. Their hard shells protect them from many predators, but they still fall prey to large fish, sharks, crocodiles, octopuses, and humans.

It is sad to say that on Saturday, January 27, 2012 a baby Hawksbill turtle was found stranded in the Boca Del Rio Area and although it was rescued and taken to the Hol Chan Marine Office it died a day after.

In the last week three turtle stranding have been reported and the turtles are in rehabilitation, will later on be tagged and released. Congratulations to all who were involved in these rescues and the NGO’s that provide care for the turtles.

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