Rare sea turtle heads north for rest and rehab

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The olive ridley sea turtle, resting at the National Aquarium of New Zealand before being transported to Auckland Zoo.
The olive ridley sea turtle, resting at the National Aquarium of New Zealand before being transported to Auckland Zoo.

A rare olive ridley sea turtle spent Tuesday night at the National Aquarium of New Zealand before being transported to Auckland Zoo for treatment.

The species, also known as the Pacific Ridley, is normally found in the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean, so it was quite a surprise for a Blackhead Beach resident who found the turtle lying on the southern Hawke's Bay beach. He told his neighbour, Department of Conservation ranger Rod Hansen.

"It's very rare to see this type of turtle this far down the coast," Mr Hansen said.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first olive Ridley to have been found here."

Mr Hansen rescued the turtle and immediately gave the aquarium a call, aquarium manager Rob Yarrall said.

A staff member transported the turtle, believed to be female judging by the shape of the tail and shell, to the aquarium yesterday. After seeking further advice from the veterinarians who work with the aquarium, as well as talking to Auckland Zoo, it was decided she should head north today.

The turtle, whose shell measures 63cm in length, certainly has the "wow" factor for staff, says Mr Yarrall.

"We've had greens, hawkbills, loggerheads and leatherbacks here, but never in the history of the aquarium have we had one of these here."

Senior keeper Kerry Hewitt was tasked with transporting the turtle to the zoo this afternoon.

Mr Yarrall says it is possible the animal had been caught in a storm, blown off course and came ashore exhausted. She might also be ill, he says, which is why Auckland is the best option for her.

"She can receive specialised care there. Ideally, she can then be taken to Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium, which has turtle rehabilitation facilities, and once recovered, be released back into the wild."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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