Sickly sea turtle is taken to the vets

A veterinary surgery in Great Yarmouth welcomed an unusual patient today when a giant sea turtle was brought in for an x-ray.

George, a green sea turtle, has lived at the town's Sea Life Centre for the last four years but has been causing his keepers concern after going off his food.

Displays supervisor Christine Pitcher said: 'George hasn't eaten for a few weeks now, and has been under close observation in our behind-the-scenes quarantine unit.

'Our own specialist vet carried out blood tests which all came back as normal, so it's possible George has an obstruction in his digestive system.'

So in a bid to get to the root of the problem the huge creature weighing nearly seven stone was hoisted from his tank on a stretcher by senior aquarist Darren Gook and displays assistants David Warriner and Craig Tasker and taken in a hire van to the Haven Veterinary Surgery in Queen Anne's Road.

George was born at a turtle farm in the Cayman Islands and he is now 10 years old which is relatively young as turtles can live to 100.

Mr Gook said George eats a diet rich in vegetables and normally enjoys his food so staff were worried when he was reluctant to eat.

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'It started a couple of weeks ago when he went off his veg. We tried everything to get the veg down him. We were putting it in squid but he was chewing the squid up and spitting the veg out. He has now gone off his meat as well.'

Mr Gook said that staff at the Sea Life Centre become very attached to the creatures they care for and explained that George is one of the lucky ones.

'George gets a full team dedicated to his care so when problems like this arise we can make sure he gets better,' he said. 'Thousands of sea turtles every day ingest foreign bodies and sadly they die because there is no one to care for them.'

On arrival at the vets George was swiftly hoisted into the x-ray room.

Director and senior vet Kiran Gabri said it was the first time he had been asked to x-ray a turtle.

After looking at the images he said: 'At the moment they are not showing anything of any significance. It will now be left to a specialist at the International Zoo Veterinary Group to interpret.

'I have seen turtles before when diving, but never thought I would be examining one. This is not an everyday situation.'

If after expert analysis a blockage is found an operation will be carried out to remove whatever it is that is causing George's problems.

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