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Ailing turtle found during search for released dolphin.

KARACHI -- Efforts to save the dolphin that had got stranded in Clifton's shallow waters a day earlier apparently paid off as an expert team could not find any clue to the aquatic mammal on Sunday after carrying out a survey of the beach.

'We have been here for more than three hours looking for some signs that could help us trace it but couldn't find any. It appears that the dolphin was able to find its way and went back into the deep sea,' said Shoaib Abdul Razzaq, part of the four-member World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) team that surveyed the Clifton beach.

Surprisingly, however, the team spotted on the shore a large green turtle (Chelonia mydas), which was later found to have a disability.

'At around 12:30pm we noticed something floating on the waves and as it got closer we saw that it's a turtle. It was unable to submerge as its posterior part remained above the sea surface,' Mr Razzaq said, adding that it's an adult female about 23 inches long with a slight old injury on its posterior part.

The team tried a few times to release the endangered species into the deep sea but couldn't.

'It's the crowd that we found so difficult to control and discipline; everyone wanted to touch the poor animal and take its picture. Frustrated enough, we decided to take it to our centre at Sandspit,' he said, adding that this part of the coast was also a turtle nesting ground.

On its disability, MohaAmmad Moazzam Khan associated with WWF-P as its technical adviser on marine resources, said that it seemed to suffer from the 'Bubble Butt Syndrome'.

'The syndrome develops when an air pocket forms under a turtle's shell. It causes them to float at the top of the ocean which puts its survival at risk as they need to dive to the seafloor to feed,' Mr Khan explained.

The WWF team, he said, would make a last attempt to release the turtle back into the sea but if they found that the animal was not able to dive, it would be kept at the centre for an examination.

'Unfortunately, the Bubble Butt Syndrome is incurable and we hardly have any experts on marine turtles in the country. We will try our best to ensure turtle's survival and keep it at the centre where relevant experts could suggest some remedies,' he said, adding that such animals would die in the ocean as they couldn't feed themselves.

Asked about whether it's the first case of the syndrome ever observed in turtles along Pakistan's coast, he replied in the negative and said that at least three such cases had earlier been brought to his knowledge by fishermen at sea.

While the exact cause of Bubble Butt Syndrome is not known, it is believed that some turtles could develop this problem when they got hit by a boat. The syndrome might be a result of combination of factors including the air that gets trapped, damage to the lungs and muscles surrounding them and damage nerves.

The term 'Bubble Butt Syndrome' is named after a turtle which was found with this problem by experts in 1989 at The Turtle Hospital, a non-governmental organisation operating in Florida Keys.

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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 15, 2019
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