New lease of life for green turtles

By Sophie Ryan

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Haami Piripi (right) offers a karakia bestowing physical and spiritual strength to one of two turtles as it is carried to the water at Ahipara. Judging by the way it was waving its flippers it certainly had the physical strength needed for its return to the wild. Photo/Peter Jackson
Haami Piripi (right) offers a karakia bestowing physical and spiritual strength to one of two turtles as it is carried to the water at Ahipara. Judging by the way it was waving its flippers it certainly had the physical strength needed for its return to the wild. Photo/Peter Jackson

Three green sea turtles were returned to their natural environment last week following months of rehabilitation from being found near-death in Northland.

A co-ordinated effort between Department of Conservation and Far North iwi Te Rarawa allowed the animals to be released at Ahipara in front of a large crowd.

The turtles, nicknamed Luke and Isla, were released one-by-one into the water on Saturday after Te Runanga o Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi recited karakia.

They were found on the same beach in August near death after ingesting plastic and had been rehabilitated at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium until they were strong enough to be released.

Kelly Tarlton's spokesman Andrew Christie said: "These turtles are generally found in warmer tropical waters, but they can be washed on to our shores during colder periods if they are weak and suffering from injury or illness, and we do our utmost to assist them back to health."

The turtles went back into the ocean fitted with tracking devices to record their position, water depth and temperature.

Mr Christie said there is strong evidence that young turtles spent time growing up in Far North waters, and DNA samples had been taken from Luke and Isla for analysis in Australia, in the hope of establishing which part of the Pacific they had come from.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday a third green sea turtle was released in Northland, this one to the Poor Knights Islands Reserve.

The female was found in September at Ripiro Beach in poor condition.

It was taken to Auckland Zoo's veterinary centre before moving to Kelly Tarlton's for ongoing care and rehabilitation.

- Northern Advocate

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