When loggerhead turtles are accidentally captured by humans, a recovery process follows, the complexity of which varies according to the turtle's injuries. Spanish researchers have analysed the process of reintegrating these animals into the environment and they have discovered that there are changes in the behaviour of the turtles that have a complicated recovery process.
The study, which has been published in Aquatic Conservation-Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, involved placing satellite transmitters on the shell of 12 healthy, wild loggerhead turtles' (Caretta caretta), and on 6 more that had spent a few months in a rehabilitation centre in the Balearic Islands.
"The six animals from the centre were seriously affected when they were caught and they had a slow, complicated recovery process" Llus Cardona, the main author of the study and researcher in the animal biology department in the University of Barcelona (UB) explained to SINC.
Upon being set free, three of the rehabilitated turtles showed changes in behaviour. "One died and the other two did not swim well and were very disorientated" Cardona, who compared their adaptation to the environment of these turtles with the twelve control ones, states.
"We received a signal each time they went up to breathe and from this we can tell what speed they swim at and the route they follow", the researcher comments. One of the most informative parameters regarding the animal's health is the time spent at the water's surface. "Turtles go up to breathe and thermoregulate. The time spent at the surface reflects their buoyancy control" the biologist highlights.
The cost of reintegration
Although the number of animals included in this study is not very high and they need more studies, the results show that when the rehabilitation is complicated, there is a percentage of animals that do not readapt to freedom.
"The underlying question
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology