Turtle lucky to survive as fishing injuries flood wildlife hospital

24 February 2021

A wild Eastern long-necked turtle has been successfully rehabilitated and released by staff at Werribee Open Range Zoo – the latest in a growing number of wildlife requiring surgery to remove fishing hooks.

A local recreational fisher made the life-saving decision to transport the turtlenicknamed ‘Barron’, to the Zoo’s wildlife hospital after it accidentally became caught and entangled in fishing line 

Thanks to the expertise of the Zoo’s veterinary team, the fishing hook Barron had swallowed was able to be delicately removed from his oesophagus, including the meat that had attracted him, and he was returned to full health.  

Werribee Open Range Zoo Veterinarian Jen O’Dwyer said Barron was later returned home to his namesake, the Barwon River. 

“We want to give all our wildlife patients the best chance for success by returning them to where they came from,” Dr O’Dwyer said. “This is particularly important for some animals who have a very small territory, somewhere where they know where their resources are and where their mates are.” 

Dr O’Dwyer said the number of fishing related wildlife injuries that Werribee Zoo veterinarians have treated has dramatically increased this summer.  

In the same week, Werribee Open Range Zoo vets were presented with a Silver gull and Pacific gull, both of whom had ingested fish hooks,” Dr O’Dwyer said. “It’s quite unusual for us to see so many admissions in a short time, and across Zoos Victoria, we are seeing more and more.” 

Dr O’Dwyer said injuries like Barron’s can be prevented by people taking their rubbish home, and disposing of fishing line in a Seal the Loop bin located across Victoria. 

“Wildlife aren’t able to go off and remove a fishing hook themselves, so the most important thing to do is not to cut the fishing line. They will inevitably suffer. We want to make sure we can give them the best chance by bringing them in as safely and gently as you can.”  

Anyone who finds marine wildlife entangled in hooks or other debris such as plastic can call Melbourne ZooMarine Response Unit on 1300 245 678. 

Zoos Victoria’s Seal the Loop initiative provides resources to community organisations to help protect Victoria’s marine wildlife from common threats such as fishing waste, plastics and debris often found in coastal areas.