Three’s the charm for Team Turtle

Department of Conservation —  06/04/2022

Sucessful partnerships produce great results for injured sea turtles

It is always bitter-sweet for long-time marine conservation partner, SEALIFE Kelly Tartlon’s, when they have to bid their rehabilitated sea turtles farewell.

Between COVID delays and waiting for an ideal weather window, the team anxiously awaited the right time to take their three charges on the long road journey from Auckland’s Tāmaki Drive to Tutukaka marina. Last Thursday, such an opportunity presented itself and the team departed in the small hours.

They were joined at the marina by kaumatua of Ngātiwai, as well as students from Te Kura o Waikare for the heart-warming release into the safe waters of the Poor Knight Islands Marine Reserve.

📷: Sealife Kelly Tarlton’s

Small, medium, large

The smallest, Puck a loggerhead sea turtle, was found washed up on 90 Mile Beach in July 2020. He was a young hatchling, covered in large goose barnacles and even a hitchhiking crab. He weighed just 180g. It is extremely unusual to see turtle hatchlings this far south, given our relative cold-water temperatures.  Skip forward nearly two years and he is a healthy 2.2kg as he swam to freedom!

Puck in safe hands.
📷: Clinton Duffy

Delta, a green sea turtle, washed up on Piha Beach in September 2021 with suspected cold shock. She was very lethargic and required urgent care.  Her rehab has been the shortest and, following plenty of TLC from the specialist aquarist team at Kelly’s, she went from a modest 9.8kg to a healthy 14kg on release.

Delta is ready to go
📷: Clinton Duffy

Super-sized Taka is an eastern Pacific green sea turtle who was found washed up on Takapuna Beach in May 2020. He was critically ill with pneumonia and a system infection. He subsequently stopped using his front left flipper and, on investigation, a bone infection was discovered.  He took to rehab instantly and doubled his weight from 26kg to an impressive 52kg!

It takes four people to carry Taka on board.
📷: Clinton Duffy

Common or rare?

There are seven species of sea turtles globally, all are endangered.  The five found in our waters were once considered vagrants, waifs and strays, however, recent research has indicated that they are now temporary residents.  This simply means, it is no longer unusual for them to be found, from time to time, in our waters.

Turtles found washed up on our beaches are immediately brought to Auckland Zoo’s vet hospital by Department of Conservation rangers.  These turtles require urgent treatment and stabilisation by the specialist vet team. Once stable, they are moved to SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s for long-term rehabilitation.

Poor Knights has rich conditions

The Poor Knights Marine Reserve provides ideal release conditions as it is free of fishing gear, such as nets and longlines, and provides an abundance of food.

Turtles are very long-lived marine species, so given the right conditions in the wild, each of these three animals can go on and reproduce and contribute to the future of its species population.

SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s is home to New Zealand’s only Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and has rehabilitated and released more than 50 sea turtles over the past 23 years. The Aquarium is part of Team Turtle, which includes Auckland Zoo and us, the Department of Conservation. 

3 responses to Three’s the charm for Team Turtle


    When I adopt animals like this, I try to mimic their natural habitat to make them feel really home.


    When I adopt pets like this, I try to mimic its environment to make them feel really home.

    Anne Coplestone 06/04/2022 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you for your Turtle rehab work. Such heartwarming story’s. Trust you can keep up the good work.