Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 4   
April, 2007
Time vs Turtles
In this Issue

from Australian Seabird Rescue Inc

Are we too late, or can something be done?

Along the North Coast of New South Wales, more and more sick sea turtles are being washed ashore, every year.

Whether the increase is due to the species’ more southerly movement due to global warming or some other factor, the fact remains that a higher number of these turtles are dying of plastic ingestion.

Australian Seabird Rescue at Ballina, NSW, are setting a precedent in the studies of these turtles, by delving further than ever, into the remains of the animals to determine the precise cause of death.

Alarmingly, these more in-depth examinations have found plastic pieces, which blocked the stomach and intestines. It is a lengthy, painstaking task but the results have, ironically, yielded information which may save turtles in the future.

In a number of cases, the plastic has blocked the pylorus (the lower end of the stomach), preventing food from passing into the intestines.

A piece of blue plastic, blocking the stomach of a Green Seaturtle.

blue plastic blockinh sea turtle stomach

Pictured (above). The stomach and intestinal contents of a Green Seaturtle. Note the large piece of semi-circular plastic blocking the lower end of the stomach. Amongst general food matter in the stomach, one can see the number of plastic pieces which could have been removed, given the appropriate equipment. NOTE the absence of food matter in the intestines below the stomach.

Stomach contents including food and plastic pieces removed from a Green Seaturtle (below).
stoamch contents of sea turtle

When stomach blockages such as these occur, the propulsion of other matter in the intestines, slows down, and begins to decay. Fatal complications, including septicaemia and starvation, follow.

With appropriate equipment, it is possible to remove food matter from the stomach, and isolate the plastic locking the pylorus.

An endoscope is one such device that allows the vision of the offending material, and with appropriate ‘grabbing’ attachments, making it possible to remove the foreign material.


This then allows the passage of fluids and food, ‘kick-starting’ the propulsion process and ridding the intestines of decaying food and faecal material.

Time is of the essence. Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles, for instance, are considered to be critically endangered, and it has been said that they may only have 20 years to extinction. The remaining 4 species in Australian waters are regarded as threatened or vulnerable.

Dr Colin Limpus, seaturtle specialist (Queensland EPA), states that only one in one thousand seaturtles survives to maturity.

Whilst awareness programs continue, the fact remains that plastic is entering our oceans at an alarming rate. To achieve success by education, whilst a genuinely worthy cause, is highly likely not enough to prevent the demise of many species, in time to save them from extinction.

Australian Seabird Rescue is an organisation that works to save every individual seaturtle that comes into care.

Veterinarian Dr Evan Kosack, who has worked for years with seaturtles, is confident that an devices such as endoscopes may be of great benefit, in not only assessing the rehabilitation prospects of turtles suffering from plastic ingestion, but is also believes they may be instrumental role in saving the turtle.


Australian Seabird Rescue is seeking funds for an endoscope for the rehabilitation, and assessment of seaturtles that have ingested foreign material, such as plastics.

The ideal endoscope can be obtained for $8,500. It has a host of functions, and would greatly enhance the chances of survival of the turtles.

Another advantage of the device, is the ability to search for, and assess the prognosis, of swallowed hooks in seabirds and waterbirds.

ASR is seeking donations or sponsorship to assist in the purchase of the endoscope. Donations can be sent to:

Australian Seabird Rescue Inc.
Endoscope Fundraiser
264 North Creek Road
Ballina, NSW

Phone: +612 6686 2852
Fax: +612 6686 9852
Mobile: +614 2886 2852


Shelf Unit for Reptile Cages

James recently wrote to me and sent me a picture of his reptile cage shelving unit design.

It looks like it would be a great unit to make and Jason has kindly agreed to share his design.
The design is not detailed but you could use the ideas to create a nice caging unit.

James said:
The shelf took about a month to build, but that was between work and everything else so it might be quicker with someone with a lot of free time.

The shelf looks great. Most of the spaces for terrariums have a strip light over them. I cut holes for the plugs as an afterthought so it isn't included in the plan.

All the cords for the lights are plugged into a multiplug hidden behind the shelf. It's also attached to the wall around the corners with 1/2" screws. The setup actually looks better than the professional ones.

I've put a day gecko, 4 long tailed grass lizards, a leopard gecko, 3 green toads, and a tokay gecko on the shelf.

I'm using one of the small spaces as a book shelf and I'm trying to convince my dad to let me get an emperor scorpion or two.

Besides the animals on the shelf I also have a baby Bearded Dragon, an Eastern Water Snake (caught him as a hatchling) and a 2 year old Argentine Black and White tegu that wants to eat all my other animals. I let him roam around the room once and he tipped over the Bearded Dragon's cage, I barely saved the little guy.

You can mention my email in the newsletter if you want to. I'll send you any new designs I come up with.

reptile cage shelf unit

James' email (wth permission) is:
James P Johnston []


In the News...
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