Auckland Zoo vets try new treatment in desperate attempt to save critically ill Olive Ridley sea turtle

Veterinarians at Auckland Zoo are trying a new treatment to try and save the life of a turtle that washed up on our shores earlier this week.

The turtle's breed is rarely seen in New Zealand waters and previous rescue attempts have always been unsuccessful but zoo staff have reason to be hopeful 48 hours into the new recovery plan. 

Critically ill and far, far away from home an Olive Ridley sea turtle - rare in New Zealand waters - was found desperately in need of help at Muriwai Beach. 

"There's no way a sea turtle should be on a beach in New Zealand and the only way is if the sea turtle can feel itself dying and it throws itself on the beach as a last gasp attempt," Auckland Zoo vet manager Dr James Chatterton told Newshub. 

"All turtles that end up on a beach in New Zealand are incredibly sick and need urgent vet care, however we are learning more all the time and we're now trying some new ways of caring for the turtle." 

A local spotted the turtle on Muriwai Beach on Tuesday and contacted the Department of Conservation (DOC) who took it to the rehab centre at Auckland Zoo. 

It's now being slowly warmed up, rehydrated and dosed with antibiotics and pain relief. 

The zoo sees up to 30 sea turtles a year, but Olive Ridleys are uncommon, averaging about four washing up each year. This one probably travelled thousands of kilometres before making its way ashore. 

"This turtle may have been born on the beaches of Costa Rica or India, so she may have come quite far," Auckland Zoo vet nurse Celine Campana said. 

After being knocked around in the rough waters, Olive Ridleys aren't in a good way by the time they are found. 

"Olive Ridleys should occasionally cruise through our waters, and pass through, the sick ones are kinda floating out there in the ocean just clinging on to life and then a big storm comes and then they're in desperate trouble and as a last-ditch attempt to save their life, they kinda throw themselves on to the beach," Dr Chatterton said. 

"They're dehydrated, they're emaciated, the Olive Ridleys we know have a muscle parasite, so their muscles are breaking down and also really sore. It's a severe problem, it's a fatal problem without treatment." 

For some unexplained reason it's only turtles that wash up in New Zealand that end up with that parasite - and it's deadly.

"It's a really hard thing to cure, there's not a specific treatment actually even if humans get this parasite there's not really a very effective treatment," Dr Chatterton said. 

So far, none of the Olive Ridleys to be treated at Auckland Zoo has survived but this time the staff are using a different combination of drugs and heating it up a little bit faster. 

"We won't give up for as long as she's trying to fight," Campana said. 

The long-distance traveller is being monitored around the clock and the next 48 hours should tell whether the new treatment has worked.