Sea turtles as a group are recognised as one of the most endangered in the world and all species are on the list of strictly protected animals. The greatest threat to sea turtles is the interaction with humans. Many turtles are found at sea or along the coast in poor physical condition, due to human activities such as fishing, boating and pollution. If they get help in the rescue centre in time, many sea turtles can be rescued. Therefore, this project includes a series of activities aimed at increasing and improving the existing capacity of the Blue World Institute for the rescue and recovery of sea turtles in the Adriatic.

Loggerhead sea turtle in the rescue pool

Loggerhead sea turtle in the rescue pool

Since many individuals require longer-term care and recovery in the pool, the current capacity to accomodate the animals is not sufficient to meet existing needs. Therefore, as part of the project activities, we plan to procure two more sea turtle recovery pools. Furthermore, in order to improve the quality of animals accomodation, it is necessary to ensure appropriate veterinary care, the presence of staff to care for animals, appropriate food and medicines, means for diagnostic tests, but also many other technical conditions such as installation of filtration systems and water quality maintenance, stable temperature, providing enough light, etc. Also, the project will enable the installation of a large pool for checking the buoyancy of animals and gaining fitness for sea turtles in a protected bay in the sea. The cage will be used for adaptation of individuals to environmental conditions after spending long time in the rescue centre and to prepare them for their return to nature.

Given that reports of exhausted, sick or injured sea turtles largely relate to animals observed at sea and very often in remote and inaccessible locations, one of the key activities for the success of the project proved to be the procurement of rescue vessel and vehicle for transport of injured and/or exhausted animals. Therefore, we plan to procure a rubber boat with a suitable outboard engine which, according to its specifications, is intended for fast and efficient coverage of the sea surface in a wide radius from the rescue centre in different weather conditions. Equally, it is planned to purchase a vehicle equipped with appropriate equipment for the transport of animals according to all prescribed veterinary standards, and which can be used for transport on hardly accessible terrain. The constant availability of transport means will enable us to increase the number of animals that have been delivered to the rescue centre and that have received help.

Also, one of the key activities is the establishment and training of a permanent rescue team composed of trained employees who will be available for coordination and implementation of rescue operations. The team will be ready to respond in need to provide help to animals in the entire project area, which includes the Croatian part of the northern Adriatic. Also, to enable efficient field interventions it is necessary to procure adequate equipment for monitoring and capturing animals (appropriate nets, stretchers, etc.), transfer of the animals and for providing first aid in the vessel or vehicle.

With the aim of strengthening the capacity of the rescue centre employees, training and education programs will be organized under the guidance of experienced experts in the field of biology and ecology of sea turtles as well as the treatment and care for sea turtles. In order to continuously monitor trends in research and care for animals in need and with the aim of networking and cooperation with other institutions, organizations and projects, during the project implementation, regular participation of employees in relevant conferences and expert meetings will be enabled.

Furthermore, with the aim of raising the level of knowledge of the general public about the conservation of sea turtles, but also the protection of marine ecosystem and biodiversity as a whole, specific workshops for school groups will be developed within the project. For this purpose, additional interactive educational content will be designed and prepared. A number of groups will be able to visit the rescue centre and the outdoor sea turtle recovery pool with expert guidance. We also plan to design and organize programs for professional development of students in veterinary or natural sciences, as well as special programs for volunteers in the rescue centre. Within the education of target groups, it is of special importance to educate fishermen about simple procedures that can provide first aid to animals in the field and about ways of safe transport to rescue center in order to increase the percentage of survived sea turtles.

Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Mali Lošinj

Since the successful operation of the rescue centre is directly related to public attitudes, their level of knowledge about sea turtle protection problems and the level of involvement in activities that contribute to the operation of the rescue centre, a number of activities will be carried out continuously throughout the project such as informing the public through the media, social networks, organizing educational public events in the local community, holding lectures, workshops and exhibitions, promoting the ‘e-turtle’ application for reporting sea turtle observations, printing educational leaflets, setting up info-boards on endangerment and threats to sea turtles at the entrance to the rescue centre, etc.

Total project budget: HRK 3,833,068.28, co-financed from the European Structural and Investment Funds in the amount of HRK 2,435,790.00

Project duration: 1st January 2021 – 30th June 2023