Audry, pictured here, is an Aubry’s Flapshell turtle (Cycloderma aubryi) native to Central Africa. After living at our facility for just under 2 years, we decided to move her to a larger and seemingly better aquarium. About two weeks later we noticed she was suffering from a life-threatening bacterial infection in her shell. Despite multiple courses of antibiotics and topical therapy, a CT scan showed that the infection had penetrated deep into her shell. After brainstorming different ideas on how to save her, we devised a unique treatment plan. The thought was to use a bone saw to cut her shell and remove all of the infected areas visible on the CT scan. We would then try a medical laser to heal the wounds. We knew this was a treatment that would take many months, if she survived the initial surgery.
To be honest, I have been a veterinarian for 21 years and was a little worried about this plan. It’s not like they teach us in vet school how to put rare and delicate softshell turtles under anesthesia. And there’s almost no information on the best way to treat a turtle with a laser! I can still remember how fast my heart was racing as I tried to keep my hands steady to save this poor turtle. If I messed up, I could doom this turtle’s best hope for survival. But despite seemingly impossible odds, Audry did survive. She fought like she knew the weight of her entire species was resting on her. She not only survived, but she has been thriving and weighs 23 pounds (10.4kg), an almost 50% in body weight since surgery!
We had Audry for five years before she finally laid eggs. But under our gentle care, she did it and three months later, they hatched, helping save the Aubry’s Flapshell turtle from extinction! Turtle island is the only facility worldwide, which has successfully bred and hatched this species. We now have offspring from 2 clutches and the hatchlings are amazing hunters and only eat live fish!
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species lists Aubry’s Flapshell turtles as Vulnerable, with habitat degradation and exploitation for local consumption identified as major threats. The range-wide decline of this species is anticipated to exceed 30% based on past declines, anticipated continuing and/or intensifying exploitation, and an estimated generation time of 20 years. Unfortunately, since their population trend is decreasing and presently there is no action recovery plan or systematic recovery plan, at this point conservation breeding and assurance colonies are their best hope. Getting eggs to hatch can be a difficult and complicated process. If the population is decimated in nature, the knowledge of breeding and incubating is the only way to save the species from complete extinction. Audry helped us to gain this crucial knowledge and she continues to thrive and produce offspring. The next clutch is in the incubator and just weeks away from hatching!
You can support Audry and her adorable offspring by making a donation to our conservation & protection fund today.