Israel’s Sea Turtle Rescue Center swung into action recently after dozens of injured turtles were found washed up on the country’s beaches following stormy weather.
In the space of just three days, 46 sea turtles were found, compared to an annual average of 250, Hadashot TV news reported Monday.
As the scale of the incident became clear, the center called up dozens of volunteers to help comb the coastline and find the creatures, many of which were suffering from lung and stomach cavity damage.
The volunteers were needed for more than just locating the injured turtles. They were also need to help carry the animals — which can weigh up to 200 kilograms each — into rescue vehicles for transport back to the center, which is operated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Center director Yaniv Levy told Hadashot that some of the turtles had fluid, including blood, in their lungs.
At the center, marine veterinarians set up a makeshift hospital, where they attended to the turtles, using X-rays and CT scans to reveal the extent of their injuries, and carrying out surgery when necessary.
Despite the efforts, the team was only able to save 15 of the turtles, which will now face a rehabilitation period of six months to a year.
But their prognosis was good. “I am quite sure we can put them back [in the sea],” Levy said.
There remained the mystery of what caused such severe damage to so many turtles. An investigation by the Nature and Parks Authority tracked down the likely culprit — an Italian marine seismic survey last week hoping to discover offshore oil and natural gas reserves.
Over a period of 24 hours some 20 explosions were set off every nine seconds as researchers mapped the ocean floor, the report said.
Both loggerhead and green sea turtles populate the Mediterranean Sea, with each of the two species laying their eggs along the Israeli coast.
In addition to the issue of garbage threatening the sea turtles’ habitat, development along the coast has also put the population at risk, according to the Sea Turtle Rescue Center.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.