Rescuers using mayonnaise to treat turtles caught in Israel oil spill

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Israel Oil Spill, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Ariel Schalit, Associated Press

Rescuers saving turtles from a devastating oil spill that has coated Israel’s coast with thick black tar have found an unlikely ally – mayonnaise.

The spill, which Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority has called one of the country’s worst ecological disasters on record, has coated most of Israel’s 120 miles of Mediterranean coastline with sticky tar, and has caused extensive damage to wildlife, including sea turtles.

Guy Ivgy, a medical assistant at the National Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Michmoret, north of Tel Aviv, said 11 turtles are being treated at the unit.


A six-month-old green sea turtle is treated at Israel’s Sea Turtle Rescue Centre (Ariel Schalit/AP)

“They came to us full of tar. All their trachea from inside and outside was full of tar,” he said.

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Workers have been removing the toxic substance from the reptiles’ airways and found a creative way to flush it out of their digestive tracts.

“We continue to feed them substances like mayonnaise, which practically clean the system and break down the tar,” Mr Ivgy said.

The recovery process is expected to take a week or two, after which the turtles are expected to be released back into the wild.

Thousands of volunteers and clean-up crews have mobilised to remove tar from Israel’s beaches, a task that is expected to take months.


People clean tar from the shore in Gador nature reserve near Hadera (Ariel Schalit/AP)

The Environmental Protection Ministry says it is investigating the cause of the oil spill.

It is believed to have taken place in early February, and Israel said it received no warning before an estimated 1,000 tons of tar started washing up on shore. The tar has also washed north to Lebanon.

On Monday, an Israeli court barred publication of all details of the investigation, including the name of the ship believed to have spilled the oil, its route and ports of call.

An Israeli journalists’ association petitioned the court on Tuesday to have the order lifted.

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