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Sea Turtles

Dusty talks about his experience helping sea turtled that have been hurt.

Mike: So Dusty, your background is in Marine Biology. Is that right?

Dusty: Yes.

Mike: You're kind of a marine biologist.

Dusty: Mm-hm.

Mike: You've mentioned before yesterday, we're at the aquarium, you mentioned that you've done work with sea turtles in helping sea turtles. Can you tell me what you were doing there?

Dusty: Yeah. Well, when I was in university, during the first two summers of my university, I would go to Greece, and I worked at a sea turtle rehabilitation center.

Mike: Wow.

Dusty: Basically, I kind of worked like a sea turtle nurse. So I went out, give injections to turtles that were sick, and help sew up wounds, and basically, just do first aid for sea turtles.

Mike: Were you wearing like a cute little nurse's outfit?

Dusty: All the time. Actually, I found that helpful a lot.

Mike: What kind of care do sea turtles require?

Dusty: Well basically, what happens is when a sea turtle gets sick, their defense mechanism is that they just float, you know. They're not fish; they can't breathe water.

Mike: Right.

Dusty: So for them, it's better to be on the surface.

Mike: Okay.

Dusty: Sometimes, kind fishermen find them, or people on the beach find them, and they bring it to us. The first thing we do is we give them a freshwater bath, because, you know, sea turtles live in saltwater, so all their parasites are things that are used to being in saltwater. So when you give them the freshwater, that kills most of them. We get some of the barnacles, clean up their shells a bit, and try and see what the injury was.

After that, we put them usually on - give them vitamin injections to kind of get their systems up a bit. And then, we take them to a professional vet if they're really badly injured. The most common things we found were fish hooks stuck in throats.

Mike: Wow!

Dusty: Or sometimes, they'd swallow things. Sea turtles will eat anything.

Mike: Really?

Dusty: Yeah. The amount of cigarette butts you'll find coming out of one sea turtle is incredible. You'd think they were chain smokers.

Mike: Holy smoke! Holy smoke is right, I guess. What was the worst sea turtle kind of situation that you found?

Dusty: You know, one of the things, apparently, in Greece - and I don't know if it still goes on; it's just almost ten years ago - but apparently, it's bad luck to catch a sea turtle in your nets, and so they try to kill the turtles. Not all fishermen, but many fishermen would try to injure the turtles. It's really hard to kill one. They only use what they had on the boat, which meant their boots or their fish hooks or their knives, or what not. They're tough creatures.

So we had one turtle came in, who's head had just been split open. You know, it looked like someone had opened a book all the way, and you could see its skull and even a section of its brain. And they've gouged out, I think, one of its eyes. It was not in a good shape. The kind of sad thing is that, you know, the best thing to do would be to euthanize the turtle, but we're not allowed to do that because they're threatened or endangered species. So you have to get permission from the government first to do it, and they have to - yeah.

Mike: Wow! Sounds like a process. I'm assuming that the turtle didn't make it out too well.

Dusty: No. Yeah, that one's been set down. It's really a hard choice, you know.

Mike: Yeah. I got to understand that. Any happy turtle stories?

Dusty: Yup, lots of happy turtle stories, too. A lot of times, we get turtles that come in with a flipper that's missing, and that's actually not a big deal.

Mike: Really?

Dusty: Yeah. They can survive with missing a flipper.

Mike: Really?

Dusty: Sometimes even two flippers, depending on which ones.

Mike: Really?

Dusty: It's kind of nice to rehabilitate them and see them go from when it's not eating and is very weak, within just a few months, be much stronger and ready to swim off.

Mike: Can you give them like a peg flipper, or something?

Dusty: Actually, some scientists are looking to do that.

Mike: Really?

Dusty: Yeah. In Japan, there are scientists now that are working on making fake limbs for sea turtles. And that's one of the possibilities.

Mike: Fascinating stuff! Wow!

Dusty: Yeah. In one of the islands, the veterinarians there were using actual bird wings, like the bones inside them -

Mike: Really? Wow!

Dusty: --to help rebuild the sea turtle shells. Sea turtle shells will grow back, as well, if they're injured. We had one turtle that was missing about 15% of its shell from the back down. And we just watched in less than two months, a good chunk of that had grown back. Actually, it was really surprising.

Mike: How did it lose its shell?

Dusty: Probably a propeller. Sea turtles - they're not very fast, and they're not very smart. And they tend to get hit by boats a lot, as well. So you'll see these big gashes in their shells sometimes.

Mike: Okay. So you won't see too many sea turtle mathematicians.

Dusty: No. Sea turtle politicians, perhaps.

Mike: We got plenty of those, yes.

Learn Vocabulary from the Lesson

sew up wounds


We help sew up wounds.

To sew up a wound means to treat it by stitching the skin closed.  Notice the following:

  1. The doctor sewed up the wound and sent me home.
  2. The wound is small so it won't be necessary to sew it up.

defense mechanism


It's a defense mechanism.

A defense mechanism is our brain and body's way of naturally protecting us in dangerous situations.  Notice the following:

  1. Don't mind my barking dog. That's just his defense mechanism.
  2. When the quake hit, his defense mechanism told to him to run outside.

chain smoker


They're chain smokers.

A chain smoker is someone who smokes many cigarettes a day, one after another.  Notice the following:

  1. My boss is a chain smoker.
  2. I was a chain smoker before I quit.

not in good shape


Tne turtle was not in a good shape.

When we are not in good shape, that means we are in poor health.  Notice the following:

  1. After years of junk food, and no exercise, he was not in good shape.
  2. They survived the accident, but they're not in good shape.



The best thing would  be to euthanize it.

To euthanize a person or animal means to help them die so they will not suffer anymore.  Notice the following:

  1. Euthanasia is illegal in my country.
  2. The veterinarian decided to euthanize the sick old dog.

Vocabulary Quiz

sew up • mechanism • chain smoker
good shape • euthanize
  1. Telling jokes seems to be his defense .
  2. He was not in after the accident.
  3. He started smoking at age 10, and by 20 has become a .
  4. Whether or not to a patient is a huge moral issue.
  5. The vet thought it wasn't necessary to the dog's wound.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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