Ultrasound surprise: Injured turtle found to be pregnant
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Ultrasound surprise: Injured turtle found to be pregnant

Imaging scan of turtle found off northern coast reveals crack in shell is not as serious as her need to give birth, so she is treated and released to lay her eggs

Members of Israel's Sea Turtle Rescue Center release an injured, pregnant turtle on May 26, 2019, after it was rescued on May 23, while in distress far from shore. (Channel 11 screen capture)
Members of Israel's Sea Turtle Rescue Center release an injured, pregnant turtle on May 26, 2019, after it was rescued on May 23, while in distress far from shore. (Channel 11 screen capture)

Found floundering at sea last week, an injured sea turtle was released back into the Mediterranean on Sunday after an ultrasound discovered the distressed diapsid’s was about to give birth and her injuries were less urgent than her need to lay eggs.

Members of the national Sea Turtle Rescue Center treated the 65-kilogram (143-pound) brown sea turtle, which was found out at sea nearly five kilometers (some three miles) off of Achziv Beach in northern Israel. A boat from the Marine Mammal Research, Information and Assistance Center was conducting a survey of the local dolphin population, when crew members came across the turtle far from shore and unable to make progress.

Noticing that the turtle’s shell was damaged and the animal was struggling in the water, the crew wrestled the turtle on board and took it to the turtle rescue center for treatment.

A video filmed from the rescue boat showed the struggle to lift the injured sea animal out of the water to get it to shore for treatment.

The researchers had suspected something was wrong when they saw the turtle floating on the surface, unable to dive or swim away when they approached — behavior that is uncharacteristic for a healthy turtle. After an initial examination at the sea turtle clinic, the turtle was sent for an in-depth exam at the Kol Chai clinic at Michmoret, near the central coastal city of Netanya.

The turtle was examined by veterinarian Dr. Tzahi Eisenberg and a CT x-ray and ultrasound showed that the shell damage was not extensive and did not pose a threat to the turtle’s life. The ultrasound also showed that the turtle was pregnant and carrying a significant number of eggs that were close to the size at which they are usually laid.

“It was decided that the eggs in the abdomen were a greater risk to her life than the fracture in the shell, since if the eggs were not laid soon they could get stuck and cause severe complications and infections,” a Nature and Parks Authority spokesperson said.

Turtles have to reach shore, where they dig a hole in the sand into which they lay the eggs, which take 70-120 days to hatch.

The rest and recovery at the clinics appeared to have a positive effect, and the clearly healthier-acting turtle was able to swim away under her own power when returned to the sea.

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