Rescuers Feed Tar-Covered Turtles Mayonnaise to Save Them
National Sea Turtle Rescue Center rescuers helping endangered turtles caught in an oil spill off Israel's Meditteranean coastline have turned to an unusual source of treatment – a well-known mix of oil, egg yolk, and acid named mayonnaise, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Last week, more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the coastline became covered with tar following a devastating oil spill. Occurring about 31 miles (50 km) offshore, the spill has been described as "one of the most serious ecological disasters" the country has ever seen by Israel's Nature and Parks Authority, according to CNN.
The sea turtles are especially susceptible to damage since they breathe and feed near the surface, and many tar-coated turtles, some already dead, have washed ashore. The Israeli National Sea Turtle Rescue Center managed to transport 11 endangered green sea turtles for medical treatment. "They came to us full of tar," Guy Ivgy, a medical assistant, told the AP. "All their trachea from inside and outside was full of tar."
The way the rescuers have been treating the turtles is rather surprising, but effective and completely safe at the same time. In order to clear the tar from the turtles' digestive tracts, the medical team is using mayonnaise and similar fatty substances which break down the tar and clean the turtles' system by enabling them to poop it out.
The reason why is mayonnaise having both hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties thanks to it being a uniform mixture of oil and water that normally don't blend well, Live Science reports.
When fed mayonnaise, the hydrophobic oil mixes with the hydrophobic tar inside of the turtle and makes it thinner. A molecule in the egg yolk called lecithin also interacts with the tar, and this process creates a barrier around the tar that makes the substance less sticky.
As a result, not only mayonnaise help the turtles flush out the tar but also can be used to treat hot tar burns since it allows the tar to be wiped away easily without causing skin damage.
The government is now investigating the cause of the oil spill, and the rescued turtles are expected to recover in one or two weeks. If all goes to plan, the turtles will be released into the wild where they'll hopefully be safe.