Dizzy’s a dilemma

Central Leader - - News -

A ju­ve­nile tur­tle with a flip­per torn off by a shark is caus­ing an eth­i­cal de­bate at the coun­try’s premier marine park.

Dizzy, as she has been dubbed, goes on to pub­lic dis­play at Kelly Tarl­ton’s Un­der­wa­ter World in Auck­land this week af­ter nine months of re­cov­ery in a treat­ment tank be­hind the scenes.

The green tur­tle, a threat­ened species, was found by fish­er­men on a beach at Great Bar­rier Is­land in Jan­uary with just a stump where her right front flip­per should have been.

Kelly Tarl­ton’s cu­ra­tor An­drew Christie says she was most likely at­tacked by a tiger shark, com­pounded by in­fec­tion.

“When she came to us she was in a pretty bad shape,” says Mr Christie.

Now staff are wrestling with whether to give her a pros­thetic flip­per.

Ear­lier this year Win­ter, a three-month-old bot­tle nosed dol­phin, caused a sen­sa­tion when Florida’s Clear­wa­ter Marine Aquar­ium at­tached a pros­thetic tail.

“We are sort of de­bat­ing whether it will be a good chance for her,” says Mr Christie.

“There’s dis­ad­van­tages with that, be­cause th­ese an­i­mals swim thou­sands and thou­sands of kilo­me­tres around the ocean you know. They’ll travel po­ten­tially up to 100 years round our oceans. The pros­thetic limb might not last that long.”

If the pros­thetic be­came dam­aged it would be im­pos­si­ble to re­cover Dizzy and re­pair it.

An­other op­tion was to keep Dizzy at Kelly Tarl­ton’s. But again it raised eth­i­cal ques­tions.

She is es­ti­mated at 10 years old, weighs around 9kg and mea­sures 40cm across her shell.

At this age green tur­tles are mi­gra­tory and her in­stinct would be to swim into the Pa­cific.

The tur­tle species is trop­i­cal and a rar­ity in New Zealand wa­ters, so Dizzy was well out of her range.

They can live for up to 150 years and grow to 1.5 me­tres across.

Adult tur­tles without flip­pers are not un­usual, but there are wor­ries that at her age and with such a long haul ahead of her, lack­ing a flip­per could be a fa­tal dis­ad­van­tage.

“We want to do the best thing for this tur­tle. Each one is an in­di­vid­ual to us.

“They be­come close fam­ily friends and we want to do what’s right for her,” says Mr Christie.

“At this stage we are lean­ing to­wards let­ting her go.”

In­ter­na­tional ex­perts had been con­sulted and the con­sen­sus is to release her.

But in the mean­time she will be trans­ferred to a pub­lic view­ing tank un­til she puts on more weight and re­gains her strength.

If re­leased, it will be in Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary. • To see a video of Dizzy go to www.stuff.co.nz.

Photo: JOHN SELKIRK

Eth­i­cal de­bate: Kelly Tarl­ton’s cu­ra­tor An­drew Christie with Dizzy the one-flip­pered tur­tle.

Feed­ing time: Dizzy has a snack while she re­ha­bil­i­tates at Kelly Tarl­ton’s Un­der­wa­ter World.

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