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The hatchling was estimated to be between one-to-two weeks old when it was found.
Pretzel was rushed to Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital (BBWH).
“Here’s this perfect little creature, which hasn’t even seen the world yet, and one of its first meals is plastic,” treating veterinarian Dr Chantal Whitten said.
“It’s absolutely shocking. At the moment BBWH is treating wildlife species from flood impacted areas. This includes an increase in displaced animals like this hatchling swept off course and echidnas who would normally be in their burrows this time of year.”
Pretzel expelled smaller pieces of plastic with the help of a laxative.
The hatchling, along with several other northern NSW sea turtles, were then transferred to Sea World Gold Coast for care, amid fears of pollution in flood-impacted seawater.
It was at Sea World that marine scientist Siobhan Houlihan noticed the young turtle was struggling to pass a larger piece of plastic.
“This little sea turtle is only between one-to-two weeks old and has already been so heavily impacted by human activity,” she said.
“Sadly, micro-plastics kill sea turtles and other marine life as they can’t digest them and suffer complications and internal damage when trying to pass the pieces through internal organs.”
While Pretzel’s story has a happy ending another green sea turtle hatching that ingested plastic could not be saved.
Green turtles are listed as endangered by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Kate Noble, No Plastics in Nature Policy Manager at WWF-Australia, said scientists and wildlife carers are concerned by the volume of debris, especially plastic, flushed into the ocean by the flood disaster.
“COVID-19 turbocharged plastic consumption and now floods are washing vast amounts of plastic pollution into our waterways. That plastic will have horrendous impacts on marine life,” she said.
It’s estimated more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in oceans globally every year.