The cause of death of a 449-kilogram male leatherback turtle that washed up at Skinners Pond on Friday is still uncertain, but the necropsy shows no evidence it ingested plastic, which can lead to death in sea turtles.
"We always check the whole gastrointestinal tract, and there was no plastic inside of it," said veterinarian Megan Jones, after performing the necropsy on Monday.
"But it would be a little while before we have our final findings."
Leatherback turtles are an endangered species in Canada.
Jones, regional director of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative Atlantic region at the Atlantic Veterinary College, said it's normal to see them in Maritime waters this time of year and, unfortunately, one or two per year end up dead and brought to the vet college.
"It's always very sad, of course, but it's not a red flag or anything unusual. It does happen."
Whether it's a turtle, or a mouse, or a moose or a whale, we always pretty much proceed in the same process — Dr. Megan Jones
Jones said the necropsy involved taking measurements, photographs and cutting the animal open to take samples of organs that are then frozen and later analyzed under a microscope.
"Whether it's a turtle, or a mouse, or a moose or a whale, we always pretty much proceed in the same process," she said.
The Marine Animal Response Society, based in Nova Scotia, the Canadian Sea Turtle Network and Department of Fisheries all have a hand in the process, from getting the turtle to the AVC to helping determine the cause of death.
Jones said she is thankful a member of the public reported the turtle to the AVC, and officials were able to act quickly while the turtle was still relatively well-preserved.
"A few hours later, like early Friday evening, we got a giant turtle in the back of a DFO truck that showed up at our doors, which is really, really great."
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