October 22, 2023: Noonu, an injured Olive Ridley turtle, is the latest recipient of Reefscapers' hands-on dedication, with a recovery story that takes in the sadly all-too-common ghost net entanglement to rehabilitation and an eventual return to her ocean home.
For over a decade, Reefscapers, in collaboration with Four Seasons Resorts Maldives, have been pioneering sea turtle care and conservation in the Maldives, from helping turtles re-learn to swim in special pools to experimenting with the country's first prosthetic turtle flippers.
Noonu's recovery is a reflection of the meticulous care, medical treatment, and overall affection on the part of the Reefscapers team. Over the last thirteen years, they have helped over 460 sea turtles who were brought to them with varying issues, ranging from buoyancy issues, having ingested plastic, being hit by boat propellers or being entangled in ghost nets.
When Noonu was first discovered by Ozen Life Resort, her severe injuries included damage to both shoulders, rear-right flipper and the carapace on her back. She was first taken to the Marine Discovery Centre at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa. However, fearing there might arise a need to amputate her rear flipper, she was transferred to thte care of the Turtle Rehabilitation Center at sister resort, Landaa Giraavaru.
“She surprised us all with how quickly she managed to recover,” said Reefscaper's Marine Biologist, Edward, who led the care of Noonu. "We were really happy to see her healing so well and that she began to regain function in her damaged flipper because it meant that we could avoid the risks associated with major surgery."
A couple of months later, the wound on her shell started to heal, which was followed by her front flippers and then her rear-right flipper.
“She did have a mild case of buoyancy syndrome as well, which meant that she was unable to dive and rest on the bottom of the tank. But fortunately, she quickly recovered from that. With a dedicated process of antibiotics and wound debridement - removing the dead tissue - we were able to stimulate her healing process and get her ready to be released into the wild,” Edward explained.
Noonu has headed out to sea equipped with a state-of-the-art tracking device that will let the Reefscapers at the Marine Discovery Center track her movement when she pops up to the surface for air. The device has an antenna, which will transmit the turtle’s location along with other factors, including water temperature and the depth of her course, to the nearest satellite passing overhead. The satellite will be transmitting this data to a datacenter which will be passed on to the Marine Discovery Center.
The heroes of this successful recovery tale, Reefscapers, have an impressive track record of helping over 460 such turtles, and actively works with the local community to foster love and respect for local nature.
Reefscapers recently concluded a visit to all Baa Atoll schools, where they raised awareness of turtles' plight through Noonu's story, as well as holding a fun competition for students to guess where the released turtle will head next.
It's not just turtles who are the beneficiaries of Reefscaper's marine conservation work. Landaa's Marine Discovery Centre Manager Dr Katrina Himpson shared details.
“We have a lot of exciting things planned for the next few months. One of the big things that we’ve got coming up is our coral spawning season. This is an event that happens on a big scale twice a year, and we predict it will happen around the full moon periods over the coming months."
Based on environmental cues, such as lunar cycles and tidal changes, coral spawning involves entire colonies of corals simultaneously releasing eggs and sperm into the ocean. It's a natural marvel that is "incredible to witness" according to Dr Kat and Reefscapers are actively gathering information to build a picture of this phenomenon in the Maldives, where historically it hasn't been studied as widely as elsewhere in the world. The Reefscapers' team recently published a groundbreaking scientific account of this amazing event and are using the upcoming spawning season to build their knowledge further.
Noonu's tale may have had a happy ending as she returns to the open waters, but for the Reefscapers team it's an ongoing story of conservation, care and learning as they commit to preserving a future for the Maldives' marine world.