Researchers Pull Plastic Straw Out of Sea Turtle’s Nose in Heartbreaking Effort to Help

We talk a lot about the problems with plastic pollution and the effect it’s having on marine life, but the magnitude of the issue doesn’t always hit home until we see the direct impact our actions are having.

Researchers studying sea turtles off the coast of Costa Rica just offered a harrowing glimpse into just how badly one tiny little disposable item can hurt an animal by sharing a video of their efforts to help a sea turtle who had a plastic drinking straw lodged up its nose.

A team working with Christine Figgener, a Marine Biology PhD candidate at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Nathan J. Robinson, a post-doctoral fellow who specializes in sea turtles at Indiana-Purdue University, discovered an olive ridley sea turtle who was in need of some help.

At first, they thought the object in the turtle’s nose was a parasitic worm, but after cutting a piece off and examining it, they realize it’s a plastic straw as one very unimpressed sea turtle is seen sneezing and gasping through the effort.

They explain that because they were on a small boat way out in the water — a “few hours away from the coast and several hours away from any vet (probably days from any vet specialised in reptiles, not to mention sea turtles) and x-ray machines” — they decided to take action to try to help where they were. Figgener has since launched an effort to support more research and create first aid kits for scientists who will likely have more encounters like this so they can be better prepared to help.

Warning: Graphic content and some strong language.

After the ordeal, they disinfected the area and observed the turtle for a while before releasing him back into the ocean.

No one will ever know for sure how exactly the straw got in there, but the researchers theorize that the turtle may have eaten it at some point and gagged, or tried to throw it up – having somewhat similar anatomy to us when it comes to vomiting, it may have gotten lodged in his nasal cavity when he did.

Just trying to imagine how painful and uncomfortable that must have been for this poor sea turtle who was left to suffer like that for who knows how long is a tough reminder about our use of plastic and single-use items like straws that we can easily live without.

It’s estimated that we go through 500,000 plastic straws every single day. Put end to end, they could circle the earth two and a half times. While we can work on better waste management systems and recycling programs, the fastest and easiest way to start making a difference is to change our habits.

As Robinson put it, “There is a solution and it lies in our own decisions. Please say no to all single-use plastic. Every plastic straw, plastic bag, or plastic bottle that ends up in the oceans could mean the difference between life or death for any number of marine animals.”

For people who really need straws to drink, or anyone looking for a reusable alternative, there are glass and stainless steel options that are easy to find.

Photo credit: COASTS/Youtube


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

mari s.
Mari S2 years ago

We do NOT need nor want straws AND --

STOP using our waters for your refuse --

The ocean, the planet's waters are HOME to so many wonderful animals -- how dare you filthy up their home.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

noted with sadness

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

Pamela A.
Pamela A2 years ago

My heart breaks thinking about how the human race myself included has hurt every species on the planet

Dot A.
Dot A2 years ago

@Alike S.
Thanks for the extra video of good humans helping turtle caught in impossible tangle of chaos,....
Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!!!
* * * copy and paste to your browser * * *

Ninette M.
Ninette M2 years ago

Once Again the human race have shown how Little we think about anybody else but our selves. This is so sad to Watch but what a happy ending. At least this beauty can now breathe Again. TYFS.

Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.2 years ago

We have this need to leave a trail of rubbish, mostly plastic everywhere we go ???

Hent catalina - maria

Poor turtle!

Alike Schroeder

Another video from a Sea-Turtle Rescue! Please watch this: