Rehabilitate reptiles following oil spills

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • One study evaluated the effects on reptile populations of rehabilitating reptiles following oil spills. This study was in the USA1.



  • Survival (1 study): One replicated study in the USA1 found that almost all sea turtles that were de-oiled recovered and could be released.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated study in 2010 in two rehabilitation centres in Louisiana and Florida, USA (Stacy et al. 2017) found that almost all sea turtles that received de-oiling treatment following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico were rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Following de-oiling treatment, almost all rehabilitated sea turtles recovered and were released, including 189 of 192 Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii, 112 of 113 green turtles Chelonia mydas, nine of nine loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta and five of five hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata). Three Kemp's ridley turtles died within 3 days and one green turtle was euthanised 142 days after admission (due to bacterial infection). Turtles (mainly juveniles with carapace length <25cm) were collected by crews patrolling the northern Gulf of Mexico and transported by vehicle from ports to rehabilitation facilities (1–3-hour journeys). Upon admission, turtles were weighed and measured (including blood samples). Turtles were de-oiled using multiple external cleanings using vegetable oil, mayonnaise and mild liquid detergent as well as oral doses of cod liver oil and oil. They were also provided with fluid therapy, and where necessary with vitamin B, iron and/or calcium supplements, antibiotics and veterinary treatment. A small number (15–20 individuals) also received oral charcoal. The dose and duration of petroleum exposure was unknown, but 139 turtles were classified as lightly oiled, 76 as moderately oiled, 46 as heavily oiled and 58 as severely oiled.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Sainsbury K.A., Morgan W.H., Watson M., Rotem G., Bouskila A., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2021) Reptile Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for reptiles. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

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Reptile Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Reptile Conservation
Reptile Conservation

Reptile Conservation - Published 2021

Reptile synopsis

What Works 2021 cover

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