REAL LIFE

With a little creativity one woman was determined to save this turtle

Her shell was so damaged it could kill her. Would this vet's plan work?
Jay Town

Leanne Wicker, 41, Healesville, Vic

Staring down at the jigsaw in front of me, I faced a more complicated puzzle than I’d ever seen before. The turtle’s shell was cracked and broken all over. The poor animal must surely be in a lot of pain.

I’ve been working as a vet at Healesville Sanctuary for three years, after returning from helping animals in Vietnam. I’d worked with bears, wild cats, birds and an assortment of other animals. I had just finished examining a crimson rosella when I’d received a call from a local clinic.


‘We’ve got a turtle from Mansfield that’s been run over by a car. We need to send it to you right away,’ they said. It was uncommon for turtles to be out at this time of year, but I assumed the odd weather had stirred it up.

When she arrived, it was sad to see that her shell was in the worst condition I’d ever seen. Despite this, she seemed quite friendly and curious.

Naming her Clancy, I sprung into action, setting her up with a feeding tube, anaesthetic and antibiotics to fight off any infections she might contract through her broken shell. Then, I was assisted by two other vets in using orthopaedic wire to pull the pieces of her shell back together. We also used a gap-filling adhesive to seal the cracks and hold the shell together.

After the surgery, we placed Clancy in a special heated enclosure so she could heal and recover. In eight short weeks, Clancy was fully healed and ready to be returned to the wild. We tested her ability to eat and swim and she was given the all-clear.

If she’d been found like this 10 years ago, she’d have been put down. Thankfully, advancements in our understanding of turtles helped us save this amazing creature.

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