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Tricky Turtle Surgery: Veterinarians Safely Remove Fishing Hook From Oblong Turtle's Stomach

Nov 14, 2015 09:17 PM EST
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We often hear of sea turtles dying after getting caught in fishing nets or other plastic debris. But there may be a silver lining in the wake of such devastating incidents: A female turtle recently found tethered to a jetty by fishing line in Western Australia's Bibra Lake has survived a complicated hook-removal surgery. 

The female was found by a passerby and quickly brought to a nearby veterinarian for help, according to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). However, the hook was stuck in the wall of the turtle's stomach, which required a tricky procedure. So the turtle -- named Paris Hilton by veterinarian staff -- was brought to Murdoch University for surgery.  

Dr. Amanda Paul, lead veterinarian on the case, explained that removing hooks is a common practice. However, the location of Paris Hilton's made things particularly difficult and required very gentle movements to safely dislodge the sharp object.

"If you do accidentally hook a turtle, don't just cut the line and let it go because that turtle will die slowly. Grab that turtle and take it straight to a vet clinic," Paul added.

Discarded fishing tackle often create problems for oblong turtles living in lakes, rivers and swamps throughout Australia, according to Alisa Wallace, a veterinarian at Perth Zoo.

"If they see some bait in the water they'll think that looks really tasty and they'll go and grab it," Dr. Wallace told ABC. "It's quite common for fishermen to bring in turtles that they've accidentally hooked, or for people to find them with line hanging out of their mouths."

The 90-minute hook-removal was a success, but veterinarians plan to monitor Paris Hilton over the next several days before releasing her back into the wild.

Oblong turtles (Chelodina oblonga) are native to Western Australia, where they are considered near-threatened. The turtles can be found living in lakes, rivers and swamps, and are characterized by very long, thick necks and an oblong dark brown to black shell -- for which they are named. They are strictly carnivores and prefer to feed on small fish, tadpoles, insects, frogs, small crayfish, freshwater prawns and carrion.

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