MARINE TURTLE RESCUE CENTRE


Recovery of loggerhead turtles in our Center, in most cases, takes up to 6 months. We usually receive them during the winter months and return them to the sea during the warmer weather (June - October).


Sea turtles have inhabited the world's seas for over 110 million years, but the daily anthropogenic impact on the marine ecosystem poses an immediate threat to their survival. Sea turtles are migratory species of vertebrates of the family Cheloniidae, and are the only reptiles that inhabit the marine environment. Although today we distinguish seven species of sea turtles in the world's seas, only two species nests in the Mediterranean: the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the green (Chelonia mydas) turtle. The northern Adriatic is one of the most important habitats for loggerhead turtles. It is estimated that over 20,000 individuals live in the Adriatic using modern methods. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the loggerhead turtle has been declared the least disturbing (LC) in the Mediterranean, while globally it is categorized as a sensitive species (VU). Sea turtles are exposed to anthropogenic influences that threaten their survival on a daily basis, such as: climate change, illegal hunting and commercial fishing, oil spills, artificial lighting, unplanned and uncontrolled coastal development, marine litter and pollution, and destructive fishing techniques.



About the centre


Global sea turtle populations are declining dramatically, which is why sea turtle recovery centers have been established around the world. In Croatia, our Center is the first of its kind in Croatia. Numerous threats such as boat strikes, fishing tools, waste, climate change, etc. threaten their survival. The Marine Turtle Rescue Center operates within the "Aquarium Pula" and the association "Marine Education Center Pula", and takes care of injured sea turtles from all over the Croatian part of the Adriatic. In addition to treatment and care, the activities of the Center are also related to raising awareness of the general public about their protection. One of the forms of education is the manifestation of the return of sea turtles to the sea, which takes place every year on the International Sea Turtle Day, June 16, on the beach near the Lighthouse.
Until today, the Center recovered and released over 170 loggerhead turtles back to the sea.



Accommodation of turtles


Turtles recover at the Center in pools of different volumes at three different locations; in the intensive care pools in the quarantine department, the pools for further care in the inner courtyard, and the pools for rehabilitation and observation before returning to the sea on the ground floor of the fort. In cooperation with NP Brijuni, the rehabilitation of turtles is carried out in their outdoor pool (14x10x3 m). In the quarantine department, in pools of smaller volume (1500 liters) a filtration system with water heating is used. Namely, a higher temperature favors better therapy and faster recovery. UV lamps are also used, which imitate sunlight and help to improve the general condition of the turtle. According to the quarantine rules, only one turtle can be in a particular pool, which does not represent additional stress because sea turtles are solitary animals. Once out of danger, turtles are rehabilitated in larger pools. The outdoor pool (14,000 liters) is directly connected to the main aquarium flow, with fresh sea water and temperatures up to 20 C. Its advantage is exposure to natural light, i.e., the source of vitamin D needed for growth and ossification (calcification) of the armor. The larger and deeper indoor pool (50,000 liters) is lit by state-of-the-art LED lighting and is equipped with a modern filtration system. Rehabilitation in larger and deeper pools for turtles is necessary, because in that way they adapt and prepare (strengthening muscles by swimming, finding food on their own) for their soon return to the sea.




ACTIVITIES

Upon arrival to the Center, a detailed examination of the turtle is performed to determine its health condition and assess the severity of the injuries.


Everyday care

Recovery of sea turtles takes place under the supervision of a veterinarian, who prescribes the necessary treatment upon arrival. The daily care of turtles includes regular feeding and cleaning of the pool and an examination of the turtle's health. They feed on various marine organisms, most often sardines, because it is a better-quality food than their normal diet. Because they belong to reptiles, cold-blooded organisms, they need to be exposed to UV rays; natural light source and / or UV lamps that mimic sunlight. Depending on whether it is an inflammatory process in the turtle, injury or malnutrition and dehydration, different treatment methods need to be applied: X-rays, antibiotics, painkillers, infusions, vitamins, honey compresses for faster wound healing, etc.


Preparations for returning the turtle to the sea

Before returning the turtle to the sea, it is necessary to assess the nutrition, mobility and condition of the turtle's injuries. If the turtle is ready to return, it is marked with small plastic plates that attach to the front fins. The plates contain the identification number of the individual in order to compare the weight, length of the armor and health condition with the previous data in case of rediscovery. In addition to treatment and care, the activities of the Center are related to the education of the general public through workshops and events to return turtles to the sea on World Sea Turtle Day (June 16). This event has already grown into a traditional and very well-attended event in the media, with an increasing number of citizens and tourists participating every year.


The importance of sea turtle recovery centers


1. Rehabilitation of sea turtles is a unique type of protection that exceeds the limits of individual recovery of individuals. It includes research and observations that increase knowledge about the biology of sea turtles and thus about the possibilities of species protection.

2. Veterinarians, biologists and other actors involved in their recovery shall apply their knowledge outside the Center by supporting research and conservation initiatives.

3. Close encounter with injured turtles, their vulnerability, but also charisma, sensitizes and leads the public to change and indicates the need for active action and responsibility for the survival of the species.



This project is aimed at improving the convalescent home within the Verudela Fortress in Pula. The project also envisions increasing the capacity to accommodate sea turtles in partnership with the MOC. The project implementation period is planned from September 2016 to June 2023. The implementation of this project will improve the infrastructure in order to enable the reception of an increasing number of individuals, improve the care of animals and increase the quality of housing for animals of various dimensions. At the same time, the expertise of the recovery facility staff will be increased, more efficient transport of individuals will be ensured and activities will be carried out to achieve greater self-sustainability of the recovery facility. In addition to improving the conditions for rescuing and rehabilitating individuals, the goal of the project is to educate and sensitize the general public, with an emphasis on the education of school-age children from Croatia and beyond. The long-term intention is to become a regionally recognized convalescent home for the care of these groups of endangered animals, to promote the needs of biodiversity conservation and to be professional support for target groups related to nature protection, but also for state bodies to which we can be valuable support.

It is co-financed by the European Union from the European Social Fund (ESF) in the amount of HRK 854,018.21, and its total value is HRK 1,004,727.31. The project leader was the Association of Argonauts from Murter, and the project partners are the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zagreb and the Marine Education Center Pula. The project was implemented in the Šibenik-Knin, Zagreb and Istria counties. The project brought new experiences, knowledge, partnerships and socially beneficial projects. The project involved 30 students of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, their professors, mentors from civil society organizations, the Association of Argonauts from Murter and the Marine Education Center Pula and volunteers. The joint action resulted in 10 socially beneficial projects that will certainly have a long-term effect on the protection of the marine environment, i.e., the protection of dolphins and sea turtles.

Blue priject manual
The main goal of this project is to develop a joint strategy for the protection of whales, dolphins and sea turtles in the Adriatic through regional cooperation (pan-Adriatic cooperation). To achieve a long-term strategy, the NETCET project, coordinated by the City of Venice, brings together 13 partners from five Adriatic countries: Italy, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and Slovenia. The Association "Marine Education Center Pula" with the State Institute for Nature Protection and the Blue World is one of three partners from Croatia. The project was co-financed by the IPA Adriatic Cross-Border Cooperation Program and lasted from October 2012 to September 2015. The main activity of MOC Pula within the project is the improvement of the Marine turtle rescue center. The renovation of the Centre has been going on for a year. The capacity of the Center was increased from 6 to 9 pools, the way of recovery of sea turtles was improved and better diagnostics was enabled by purchasing analytical instruments for blood analysis. The recovery itself is more successful with the new water filtration and heating system. For the education of the population, a new room of 40m2 was opened, in which an exhibition about sea turtles and their biology, a corner for children and an educational screen were set up. The funds spent for the activity of renovation of the Center and additional content amount to € 70,000.00.

In addition to the renovation of the Center, MOC Pula during 3 years of project implementation is responsible for raising the awareness of boat leaders, production and distribution of posters for the same in seaports throughout Croatia, children and interested citizens by organizing turtle release events, but also informing visitors at the Center. One of the main goals of the project is to establish a network of "friends" of sea turtles, and the City of Pula, in cooperation with the MOC Pula and the project holder, the City of Venice, became a member of the network.

Become an active participant in the protection and conservation of sea turtles. "Adopt a sea turtle" will contribute to the survival of species that are currently among the most endangered in the world. When adopting a sea turtle, you will be awarded a diploma for turtle adopters, a photo of the selected turtle with a description and a promotional flyer.



Each adopter is also given an honorary place in the front rows when releasing the adopted turtle back into the sea. All news about your adopted turtle will be delivered to you by email or home address.

Let them continue their journey!