Saving Sweetie: Turtle Rehab on the Turkish Aegean

What is a turtle rehabilitation centre? We were wondering that too. It is not an institution for sea creatures going through withdrawals, but the theme still has a serious background, with a happy ending for the turtles. We visited the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on picturesque Iztuzu Beach in Dalyan, on the Turkish Aegean. Visitors to the facility can learn how the reptiles became endangered and how the rehabilitation centre came to be.

Sweetie crawls to the sea

So how do the turtles come to rehab? A baby turtle, we called her “Sweetie”, slipped from her egg and onto the moonlit Iztuzu Beach before crawling toward the sea. Volunteers make sure that the baby turtles actually reach the water and aren’t eaten on the way. Those who don’t make it at night are held by the animal rights activists until the following night. Afterwards, they live dangerously: out of 1,000 baby turtles, only two will reach adulthood. We can’t be sure if the loggerhead named Sweetie will grow to the full 120 centimetres and 100 kilograms. She could become entangled in a fishing net or cut by a boat propeller in the Turkish Aegean.

Iztuzu Beach, Turkey - home of the turtles
Iztuzu Beach, home of the loggerhead sea turtles ( – adempercem)

In the turtle hospital

If Sweetie is lucky, she’ll be taken to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at Iztuzu Beach if she gets injured, where she’ll be x-rayed to determine the extent of her injuries. Each injured loggerhead sea turtle, or “Caretta caretta” in Latin, has its own pool, where students from the University of Pamukkale and other volunteers keep an eye on it, hoping to heal the cuddly sea creature. The loggerhead sea turtle, which is something of a mascot in the Dalyan region, is threatened with extinction and is a protected animal. And that’s taken really seriously here. The dreamlike Iztuzu Beach, where the Dalyan River flows into the sea, cannot be developed, because the turtles come here year after year to lay their eggs. Animal rights activists then guard the clutches day and night. The loggerhead sea turtle is found in very few areas of the Mediterranean, and one of them is the “Turtle Beach” at Iztuzu, Dalyan. Our Sweetie got a huge crack in her shell from a boat propeller. The vets filled the crack with a kind of cement. If the shell continues to grow, the cement will flake off at some point.

Tank with a turtle in the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre
In the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, visitors get to see the animals up close

Visitor attraction, Caretta caretta

While the turtles do their laps in the pool of the rehabilitation centre, visitors are told the woeful tales of each patient. Every time a turtle pops its head out of the water, it looks as if it wants to snap at us or scold us. It elicited an “ooooh” and “sooo cuuuute” from the visitors. They are really cute animals that are vulnerable, despite their thick armour. Some turtles can no longer dive after an operation on their shells, but can overcome this with various tricks, like strapping a stone on them as a weight. The feeding of the turtles finally takes place underwater.

Baby turtles on the beach
A person helping baby turtles to the sea

Sweetie looks a little worse for wear, but she will soon recover and can hopefully contribute to the preservation of the sea turtles in the Turkish Aegean. If all goes well, she will live up to 150 years old.

A visit to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre is definitely worth it, because you can not only learn about these sea creatures, but also pay tribute to the work of the institution, which is supported by TUI. After that, you can lay out on beautiful Iztuzu Beach.


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