6 Mar 2014

Wanted: Donations to track turtles

10:27 am on 6 March 2014

Kelly Tarlton's aquarium is calling for donations so it can conduct more research on one of the sea's most iconic creatures.

The 80th endangered green turtle that the Auckland aquarium has nursed back to health, known as Stacey, was released on Wednesday. But once they are released, little more is known about the elusive species.

Stacey before release.

Stacey before release. Photo: RNZ / Olivia Allison

Only six turtles have had satellite transmitters attached so far, because they come with a $4000 price tag. The transmitters are important to scientists because the data sent to a satellite tells them where a turtle is, the depth of the water and its temperature, how far it has swum and the number of times it has surfaced.

The aquarium hopes to raise money from public donations to buy more.

Auckland Zoo vet An Pars says at the moment they know almost zilch about the species and when it comes to blood tests, they use other animals for benchmark indicators.

She says all data they get from the turtles is shared on an international database.

Stacey's story

Stacey washed up on a Dargaville beach last September. weak, lethargic, and had almost no muscles around her flippers. She* was pumped with fluids at Auckland Zoo, x-rayed and had bloods taken.

All the tests showed Stacey, believed to be between eight and 10 years old, was otherwise healthy.

Over the past five months, Kelly Tarlton's staff have boosted her weight from 8 kilograms to 12 kilograms.

She was released on Wednesday in the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve where the water is 21degC - perfect for turtles.

The last turtle released there ended up near Chile. Stacey isn't being tracked by satellite though, so it is anyone's guess where she will end up.

* While Stacey's gender is not known, the team working with her refer to her as she.

Stacey being released in the Poor Knights reserve.

Stacey being released in the Poor Knights reserve. Photo: RNZ / Olivia Allison