ARCHELON and Strandings
Responding to strandings is a very important part of the work ARCHELON does year round. ‘Stranding’ is the term for a dead, sick or injured sea turtle. During the summer field project (running from May-October) ARCHELON responds to reports of stranded turtles, either through the National Rescue Network that ARCHELON keeps in close cooperation with the Port Police or the National Marine Park of Zakynthos or many times by locals or even tourists.
When a stranding is reported to the ARCHELON Zakynthos team, the response is as quick as possible. The information we receive about the turtle, including location, size and whether it is deceased or alive, is usually very vague. It is important to respond rapidly due to this ambiguity; sometimes deceased turtles are reported as alive as the motion of the waves makes them appear to be moving their flippers. Similarly, injured turtles may be very weak and not move much at all and hence might seem lifeless. Hence the first thing the stranding team does when it locates a turtle is assess its condition.
In the case of deceased turtles, the priorities are to determine the cause of death, to record data such as measurements (which aid with ageing and sexing turtles) and finally to safely dispose of the carcass. Clues such as external injuries, bleeding or extruding fishing line may help to conclude why the individual died. Some of the most common causes of injury/death to turtles are propeller strikes, intentional, malicious head injuries and fishing line/hook ingestion. Several turtles have also been found entangled in fishing line, which can constrict the blood flow to flippers and may eventually cause it to die and start decomposing. It is important to stress that in Zakynthos, local fishermen are well informed and ARCHELON maintains a good relationship with them. Sadly this is not the case all over Greece and so some see Sea Turtles as a nuisance. A stranding database is maintained to monitor what the biggest threats are so that these can be tackled accordingly.
In the case of injured/sick turtles that are found alive, the first course of action is to identify the injury and to facilitate transportation to the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre operated by ARCHELON in Glyfada, Athens. During the 2015 summer field season, a total of 4 turtles were transported to the Rescue Centre for treatment which was possible thanks to the KTEL Zakynthos bus drivers.
The Rescue Centre was established in 1994 in cooperation with the municipality of Glyfada and since then has successfully rehabilitated and released approximately 70% of all sea turtles that have been sent there. Treatment may include x-rays, medication, operations, feeding and observation. As a part of ARCHELON, the work in the Rescue Centre is completely funded by donations and our adoption programme. It is possible to sponsor the treatment of injured sea turtles currently receiving care at the Rescue Centre. Further details can be found at www.archelon.gr.
Zakynthos programme Coordinator