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Friday: we went out to find a dead whale but…

…instead we found an Olive Ridley sea turtle entangled in old fishing line. I went out to the beach at Gamba with Bas V. from WWF and DeDe (who works with sea turtles for a local NGO called Ibonga) to try to get a few samples from a dead humpback whale that washed up about 10 days ago. As we walked along, DeDe found a female Olive Ridley (the first one I’ve ever seen in the wild) still alive with 3 flippers wound up in thick polypro line. Luckily I had my knife and we were able to cut it free. The line had cut down to the muscle on the front flippers, but those will likely heal. The bad news was one of the rear flippers had been cut down to the bone. The poor thing had probably been caught in the large mass of line for at least a few weeks, but I guess it was fortunate she got caught in a part of the line where she could at least breathe at the surface of the water until the debris washed ashore. Bas also thought the turtle probably only washed up on last night’s high tide (if it had been there longer, crabs and insects would’ve started to eat away at it). In the States this turtle would’ve gone to a rehabilitation facility, but here there are none, so we had no choice but to walk her down to the water and hope for the best. After having her limbs bound for weeks, she seemed to have trouble moving 2 out of 4 flippers, but hopefully she rested up and swam out on the next high tide.

We couldn’t locate the whale, so Bas called the guy who had reported it, and we found out we had come to the wrong stretch of beach. So we got back in the car and drove further out on the savannah to access beach further north. Unfortunately, along the way on the sand track the car suddenly lost power. I was horrified because my flight to Libreville was leaving in about 3 hours, and here we were stranded miles from anywhere. Luckily after awhile (and some fussing with various tubes and gas filters) Bas was able to get it started again and I have never been so happy to make it back to Gamba! We later found out we had gotten some water in the gas tank. Never a dull day here….

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