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Field course students rescue endangered turtle

20 June 2018

A bay in Tobago, blue see and green trees

Cardiff University students saved the life a leatherback sea turtle on World Ocean Day after they found it tangled in a boat line.

Whilst on a tropical marine ecology field course in Tobago, quick thinking students saved the life of a turtle, by jumping in to untangle it and releasing it back into the wild.

The second year biological science students were visiting the Caribbean island as part of their course, to learn practical field skills, but during an excursion the students’ skills were put to the test.

Dr Sarah Perkins, Cardiff University School of Biosciences, said: “During a reef survey, the students encountered a large turtle that had become entangled in rope. The students quickly recognised the turtle as a leatherback, a species that is usually only found in the open ocean, and is highly endangered.

“The largest of all turtles, the 800 pound turtle had likely come inshore to lay her eggs on the beach, but become entangled in a boat line as she did. Turtles have to breathe air at the water surface and the quick thinking of our students to remove the rope saved her from drowning.”

Rowan Duckworth, second year biological sciences student, said: “I was shocked at the how large the turtle was, and we were all thrilled to see it swim back to deep water after she was freed.”

Professor Jo Cable, Cardiff University School of Biosciences, said: “As part of our biology degree schemes, students are given the opportunity to take part in field courses, allowing them to develop and hone their skills as a field researchers.

“We give our students hands-on experience with animals, plants and microorganisms in their natural habitats, to enable them to develop the skills needed to be the next generation of researchers – but these students drew on their skills to rescue an animal in need of help.

“Their quick thinking meant that the leatherback sea turtle, which is an endangered species, was untangled before it was injured and could be safely released back into the wild.

“The rescue was quite apt as it was World Ocean Day, a celebration of our oceans, with a real focus on plastic pollution. Our students are being trained to be the next generation of scientists, and a big part of their work in the future will be addressing the issues of sustainability and plastic pollution.”

The video was captured by the Environment Research Institute Charlottesville.

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