A sea turtle named Casquita makes her way to the sea after recovering from injuries for two months at the Machalilla Wildlife Hospital in Ecuador.

This week marked the beginning of a fresh start for Casquita, an Olive Ridley sea turtle in Ecuador. Accompanied by children from the local community, Casquita triumphantly made her way back to the sea after recovering from injuries inflicted by a boat propeller and malnutrition.

Two months ago, Casquita was found severely undernourished on the beach of the Hotel Las Tanuzas with a fractured skull and shell. The hotel staff brought Casquita to the Machalilla Wildlife Hospital for treatment where volunteers immediately treated her injuries and helped nourish her back to health. After several weeks, she was transferred to a larger tank in preparation for her release.

On the day of her release, children chanted Casquita’s name as hospital volunteers brought her out in a stretcher and placed her in the water to finally return home.

Children surround Casquita’s tank before her release (Machalilla Wildlife Hospital)

Casquita is one of the many marine animals treated at the Machalilla Wildlife Hospital. Sea turtles, sea lions, and sea birds are brought to the hospital from the entire coast of Ecuador with injuries varying from boat strikes, lesions and internal damage by fishing hooks to getting trapped in or consuming marine debris/plastics.

The hospital is a grassroots project begun in 2012 as a rescue operation by the Machalilla park rangers to monitor stranded marine animals, particularly sea turtles. Funding, food and medications for the project were limited to donations from the community and t-shirt sales. Any additional supplies were purchased by hospital volunteers out of pocket. Hospital staff brought patients to private labs or public hospitals in town to conduct digital imaging and blood tests, which are crucial for diagnosis and treatment.

This year, WildAid partnered with the hospital to provide them with crucial resources including tanks, medications and equipment, as well as increase the number of animals treated throughout the year. This collaboration is part of WildAid’s comprehensive sea turtle conservation program that protects sea turtle nests, releases hatchlings to the sea, educates the community about the importance of sea turtles, reduces sea turtle bycatch by underwriting at-sea patrols and treats injured sea turtles.