Tiny the turtle to set off on big adventure into the wild

By Amelia Wade

Kelly Tarlton's curator Andrew Christie with Tiny, a juvenile green turtle who is to be returned to the wild. Photo / Natalie Slade
Kelly Tarlton's curator Andrew Christie with Tiny, a juvenile green turtle who is to be returned to the wild. Photo / Natalie Slade

Tiny is a bit special - he's the smallest turtle to be found in New Zealand waters.

He was washed up on a beach on Auckland's west coast after struggling in a storm. He was just the length of a pen and weighed 600g.

But after two years in rehabilitation at Kelly Tarlton's, he's three times that length and 10 times the weight.

Today he's expected to be released back into the ocean with four other turtles at the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve in the Bay of Islands.

Kelly Tarlton's started a turtle rehabilitation programme in 1995 to treat sick or injured turtles found around New Zealand's waters. So far, they have treated 72 sick turtles.

Green turtles like Tiny, named after the colour of their flesh, are the species most commonly taken to Kelly Tarlton's, but they have also treated hawksbill and loggerhead turtles - all breeds classed as endangered.

One of the hawksbill turtles ready to be released came to the rehabilitation programme wrapped in net and rope.

Kelly Tarlton's curator Andrew Christie said the rope must have been around the turtle's shell long enough to cause a deformity while growing and had scarred him from the continuous rubbing on his skin around the flippers.

Mr Christie is looking forward to setting the now healthy turtles free.

"There's nothing like it, eh, watching them go off into the big blue."

The divers are also looking forward to having the turtles released. When they are in the big tanks after being strengthened on fluids, muscles, squid and herring, the turtles nip the divers' fingers.

"They're looking forward to getting the feeling back in their fingertips," said Mr Christie. Before being released back into the wild the turtles are tagged.

This year, one green turtle, nicknamed "Fatty" by some of the divers, has been satellite tagged, allowing its journey to be tracked and studied.

The remaining four turtles to be released have been fitted with flipper identification tags, which are used to identify them if the turtle is seen again.

- NZ Herald

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