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Ella the green sea turtle underwater © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast / WWF-Australia

Ella the green sea turtle underwater © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast / WWF-Australia

Meet the green sea turtle, found with a plastic balloon in her stomach

08 May 2020

Keywords
  • plastic
  • marine pollution
  • marine turtles
  • Wild livestream

Turtle Rescue

Did you know that balloons are in the top three most harmful waste items to wildlife?
Seabirds and turtles not only ingest balloons, they actively select them as food. This is because a burst balloon often resembles a jellyfish or seagrass, the natural food source of many marine species like turtles.


What does plastic pollution do to sea turtles?
Meet Ella the green sea turtle, found with a plastic balloon in her stomach


Underwater Rescue of Ella the Sea Turtle © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast / WWF-Australia

Back in April, a volunteer from Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast (ASRCC) spotted a picture of Ella on a scuba diving page on Facebook that showed signs she might be unwell due to the large number of barnacles on her shell, often a sign of a turtle in distress.

Thanks to the eagle-eyed volunteers, Ella was rescued from Cabbage Tree Bay, Manly in NSW and taken into intensive care to remove the barnacles, rehydrate and find out the cause of her distress.

An x-ray showed that Ella was sadly suffering from pneumonia and septicaemia.

 

X-ray of Ella the green sea turtle © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast / WWF-Australia Yellow balloon coming out of Ella the Sea turtle © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast Balloon string coming out of Ella the Sea Turtle


Thanks to a diet of oily fish, which helps move the bowels, the true cause of her sickness was finally revealed. Ella passed a piece of string 252cm in length, with a yellow balloon still attached. 

Three days after passing the balloon and string, Ella passed remnants of a plastic bag as well. She remains in care while she continues to recover from her ordeal. But, she is one of the few lucky turtles who was found and treated in time.


  Yellow balloon and 252cm string found in sea turtle © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast Plastic found inside Ella the green sea turtle © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast / WWF-Australia

Sadly, this is not the case for countless sea-life that unwittingly consume plastics, leading to injury or a slow and painful death.


Handover of sick green sea turtle to ASRCC carer Rob © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast / WWF-Australia Rescued green sea turtle in care © Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast / WWF-Australia

‘People don't seem to make the connection between releasing balloons and how they end up littering our oceans and nature, as well as killing our marine and terrestrial wildlife!’ said Cathy Gilmore – Coordinator of Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast (ASRCC)

The consumption of plastic products like balloons and straws can cost sea turtles their lives.

Plastic in a turtle’s stomach imitates the sensation of being full, leading them to ignore the need to seek out other food sources, and ultimately die from starvation.

It’s not only the consumption of plastic that poses a threat to these marine reptiles, turtles can easily entangle themselves in plastic debris, like bags, nets and string, causing risk of choking to death, losing limbs and injury.


Why do sea turtles eat plastic? 


At least 1,000 turtles die each year from being tangled in plastic waste © WWF-Australia

Marine waste like plastic bags look very similar to jellyfish, while fishing nets often look like tasty seaweed. Sea turtles think they’re consuming some of their staple foods when really they’re welcoming harmful substances into their stomachs.


What can you do to stop plastic pollution? 


STEPS TO SCRAPPING PLASTIC

  • Have your say - Make sure NSW takes action on the most problematic plastics. You can have your say until Friday 8th May.
  • Shop to drop - Choose products with no or minimal plastic packaging, and remember your reusable shopping bags.
  • Bring your own - Bring your reusable bottles and take a reusable cup to your barista for your morning brew.
  • Say no to straws - and plastic cutlery. Ask for compostable takeaway containers or bring your own.
  • Stash the trash - Collect all your soft plastics and recycle them with REDcycle at your local supermarket.

Thankfully, Ella was one of the few lucky ones, find out what you can do to help stop Australia’s plastic problem HERE.


Want to take action to save the lives of countless precious marine species? Have your say today and make sure NSW takes action on the most problematic plastics -> https://yoursay.dpie.nsw.gov.au/plastics-plan/short-survey

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