DIEGO GARCIA, British Indian Ocean Territory — Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia personnel rescued a critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle, at the installation’s marina June 18.
After four days of care and monitoring, by the Public Works Department (PWD) Diego Garcia Natural Resources Program, the juvenile, female turtle was released at Turtle Cove, the island’s turtle reserve.
Marina personnel found the turtle ashore and notified British Indian Ocean Territory police and the NSF Diego Garcia Judge Advocate General office. Without a marine biologist on island, PWD Diego Garcia Natural Resources Program Manager Antenor Nestor Guzman was tasked with caring for the turtle.
“The turtle was in bad shape—very weak and barely responsive,” said Guzman. “She didn’t have any observed major body injuries, just some very minor abrasions on the right, front flipper that may have been caused by tide action when the turtle was ashore.”
The turtle was treated with an intravenous sodium chloride injection. Daily doses were given until she showed signs of improvement.
“There is a high probability that the turtle may have died if it was put back to the water the same day she was found without medical intervention,” said Guzman. “Several times that first morning, the turtle was put back in the water, but she was very weak and not responding. By day four she started to recover even more and was able to move her head up over the water for air all by herself.”
Following normal protocol, turtle was measured and tissue samples taken that will be sent to Swansea University, Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom for genetic analysis.
“It was awesome,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Austin Patridge. “Considering they’re endangered, probably not too many people will have hands or eyes on them for too much longer.”
Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) have been determined to be a critically endangered species according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the IUCN, the Hawksbill species is declining due to over-exploitation of adult females and eggs at nesting beaches, degradation of nesting habitats, poaching of juveniles and adults in foraging areas, incidental mortality relating to marine fisheries and degradation of marine habitats. The overall decline of the species has been in excess of 80 percent over the last three generations.
The PWD Diego Garcia natural resources program is a part of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Far East. It is the local subject matter expert and primary point of contact for natural resources, cultural resources, historic preservation, environmental management systems, applied biology, environmental planning, pest management and sustainability issues.