Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Invercargill’s Oreti Beach had an unexpected visitor when a tuckered-out and terminally ill turtle normally found in the tropics washed ashore.

Date:  30 May 2017

The 27-kilogram turtle, thought to be an olive ridley, was found alive by a member of the public and reported on Monday to the DOC emergency hotline. 

Ill turtle.
Turtle on Oreti Beach

Department of Conservation Senior Biodiversity Ranger Ros Cole says the turtle was in a critical condition, suffering severe hypothermia and passed away soon after.

"DOC staff tended to the turtle, providing emergency care and veterinary assistance was also called on, but the odds were stacked against it and the turtle did not make it through the night."

This was the first time in recent memory a live olive ridley turtle had appeared on southern shores, Ros says.

"While not completely unheard of, a turtle is definitely a rare sight to see on a Southland beach. Olive ridley turtles are normally found in tropical and sub-tropical waters – anyone who's been to the beach in Southland will know Oreti Beach certainly does not fit that profile. With temperatures on Monday dropping to about -2˚, the conditions would have been extreme for a species accustomed to temperatures of around 30˚."

Ros says it was hard to know why the turtle appeared so far south.

"It's possibly arrived courtesy of the East Australia Current, or it could have been blown off course by a storm. While we can't know for sure the exact set of circumstances leading to it landing on Oreti Beach, other cases from around New Zealand generally reveal wayward turtles are usually suffering from underlying disease or illness and very rarely are able to be rehabilitated."

A necropsy will be undertaken to determine the cause of death.


Ros Cole, DOC Biodiversity Ranger
Phone: +64 3 211 2482

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