She pushed along the sand, then hesitated at the water’s edge. We stared and held our breath. Would the newly-released reptile head for the sea – or had trauma and sickness damaged her somehow, leaving her unable to live a natural life? Then, in a moment of magic, the spray swept up and dampened the creature’s staring eyes, a salty welcome signal that propelled her into the water, and on to freedom.
They named her Dalga, which means “wave,” at the North Cyprus Wildlife Centre, where she had spent two months being cared for. She had been found by fishermen, floating on the water.
Wildlife Centre vet, Rianne Belgrims, explained: “Her carapace was covered in external parasites, which show that she was unable to dive down, which is essential for turtles to feed and clean themselves. She may have been hit by a boat. We treated her with antibiotics and let her gain weight. It is very difficult to tell the age of turtles but we think she could be between 30 to 50 years old. They live for a very long time, “ added Rianne, who is from Belgium.
Dalga’s release took place at Güzelyalı, a turtle nesting beach monitored by local volunteers. The turtle is the symbol of North Cyprus tourism and many bars and restaurants use its proper name,” Caretta.” But there are many dangers for the popular animals, both in the water, from fishing nets, boats and jet-skis, and on the beaches where feral dogs and other animals may attack them or disturb their nests.
The Wildlife Centre team have attached a tiny electronic tracker on Dalga’s back. They hope she will stay around the eastern Mediterranean and perhaps return one night, to lay her eggs on a North Cyprus beach.