July 19th, 2022
In June 2021, near the banks of the River Guadiana in Azinhal, a fisherman saved a turtle from drowning. And because there was a risk of it developing aspiration pneumonia (because it got caught in the nets and could have inadvertently inhaled water), that fisherman, Ricardo Gonçalves, asked the Porto d’Abrigo do Zoomarine team of specialists to collect it, for observation, treatment and subsequent return to the wild. Thirteen months later, the loggerhead turtle returns to the sea, in a renewed cooperation between Zoomarine and the Portuguese Navy, honouring the noble effort of a fisherman who knew how to have agility, vision, courage and empathy.
The sea turtle, meanwhile baptized Salina, is a specimen of the Caretta caretta species, the most common in Portuguese waters – it is a protected species, which urgently needs to be defended from possible extinction. It arrived at Porto d’Abrigo at 63 cm and 38.7 kg, and will return larger (67 cm) and much heavier (51.8 kg).
Not so unusual was the hook that an X-ray detected stuck almost at the entrance of the stomach of this turtle. Several attempts made by Dr José Sampayo, an international specialist in zoological endoscopy, proved unsuccessful in safely removing it; however, as the event is already old and the hook is already fully wrapped in tissue, it was assumed that it no longer posed any danger and that in time it would disintegrate.
Meanwhile, the time has come for Salina to return to sea. The return will take place on board the NRP Cassiopeia, which will set sail at 8.30am from Faro’s Commercial Quay, bound for 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) south.
And, as there’s little that’s banal about Salina, her return will also be rather untraditional – because attached to her shell will be a piece of equipment (KiwiSat Argos) which, if all goes according to plan, will allow us to follow her progression through the seas of this planet for the next 425 days, approximately. Surely this will be the best way for his rescuer, Ricardo Gonçalves, to follow the turtle he helped to save and that will be special to him forever (www.seaturtle.org/tracking/index.shtml?tag_id=236274).
Meanwhile, however observed, the hope is that Salina will never again come face to face with humans. In the meantime, and unfortunately, the risks to its survival, even away from our species, will be immense – and many of them will continue to be associated with our activities, carelessness, greed or simple irresponsibility… However, thanks to the generosity and sensibility of a fisherman from Azinhal, and to the multidisciplinary team of his zoological caretakers, from now on Salina can try again to fulfil her destiny – for the good of her species and of our Planet? Farewell, Salina!