TURTLE CARE Housing

Housing – General Requirements

Objective: To ensure that a marine reptile undergoing rehabilitation is housed in enclosures that keep it safe, secure and free from additional stress.

  • Enclosures must be escape-proof. – Housing must be made safe for the marine reptile to live in by excluding hazards that might harm it, including: − shielding the drains and intake pipes to prevent accidental entrapment and a drowning risk.
  • Housing must be made safe for the rehabilitator by excluding hazards that may harm them (e.g. electrocution from electrical equipment near water, hielding an electrical heat source so that it is bite-proof − removing small pebbles, non-food items or inappropriate substrate to prevent ingestion − excluding rough or abrasive surfaces).
  •  Housing must be designed and positioned to protect the marine reptile from physical contact with wild animals and pests, and cannot see or come into contact with domestic pets.
  • Housing must be designed so wildlife rehabilitators can readily access the marine reptile and must be positioned so that marine reptiles are not exposed to strong vibrations, noxious smells (e.g. smoke) or loud noises (e.g. radios or televisions).
  • Housing must be constructed from non-toxic materials that can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
  •  If multiple animals are kept within a single enclosure, there must be sufficient space for individuals to avoid undue conflict with other marine reptiles in the same enclosure.
  •  When multiple marine reptiles are housed together, care should be taken to observe for aggressive interactions, and marine reptiles showing signs of aggression should not be co-housed.

Housing for sea turtles located outside should:

  •  have two areas – one exposed to direct sunlight and another covered by protective shade cloth − provide protection from insects (e.g. a mosquito net cover) to prevent them from becoming flyblown.

 

Intensive care housing

The objective is to facilitate frequent monitoring, treatment, feeding and re-hydration during the period immediately after coming into care and until the animal is stabilised.

  • Intensive care housing must provide sufficient space for the sea turtle to maintain a normal posture and to stretch its flippers and turn around.
  •  Intensive care housing must provide a constant temperature appropriate to the species, age and nature of the illness or injury. For example: − marine reptiles need to be in water with temperature 23–26°C.
  • The temperature in intensive care housing must be monitored at least once a day using a thermometer. Electrical heat sources must be regulated by a thermostat and shielded to prevent burns and disturbance to the marine reptile.
  • Marine reptiles in intensive care housing must experience a light-dark cycle that replicates outside conditions. If an artificial light source is used, it must be separate from any artificial heating.
  • Intensive care housing must be designed or positioned (or both) so that visual and auditory stimuli are reduced.
  • Intensive care housing must be adequately ventilated without allowing excessive drafts.
  • Consideration must be given to ensure the water is not too deep for a sea turtle that cannot lift its head.

Pre-release housing

Objective is to allow a marine reptile to regain its physical condition, acclimatise to current weather conditions and practice natural behaviour. At this stage of rehabilitation, interactions between marine reptiles and humans will be greatly reduced.

  •  Pre-release housing must provide sufficient space for the marine reptile to move about freely and express a range of natural behaviours.

For example, a sea turtle with a:
− 0 to 10-centimetre CCL requires an enclosure that is 5 CCL by 2 CCW and a minimum depth of 30.5 centimetres. For each extra turtle, increase by 25%.
− 10–50 cm CCL requires an enclosure that is 7 CCL by 2 CCW and a minimum depth of 76.2 cm. For each extra turtle, increase by 50%.
− 50–65 cm CCL requires an enclosure that is 7 CCL by 2 CCW and a minimum depth of 91.5 cm. For each extra turtle, increase by 50%.
− Greater than 65 cm CCL requires an enclosure that is 9 CCL by 2 CCW and a minimum depth of 122 cm. For each extra turtle, increase by 100%.

  • Pre-release housing must provide areas where the marine reptile can gain exposure to prevailing weather conditions and locations where it can shelter. The temperature in pre-release housing must be gradually adjusted to prevailing weather conditions as the marine reptile approaches release.
  • Pre-release housing must contain habitat that enables the marine reptile to perform a range of natural behaviours. For example:− sea turtles require sufficient depth for their diving ability to be assessable
  • Pre-release housing should be designed and positioned so that exposure to humans is kept to the minimum required for observation, feeding and cleaning.
  • Pre-release housing for marine reptiles should be circular or oval-shaped.
  • Pre-release housing should have a pump to mimic natural sea currents to ensure a marine reptile’s fitness for release.
  • Reptiles that naturally bask should be provided with lighting appropriate to the species’ needs (e.g. UVB light or exposure to sunlight for a few hours).

 

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