Sea snake rescue could have proved fatal

Mao Loa, the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake rescued at Toowoon Bay is on the mend

The improper handling of a highly venomous sea snake has prompted Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast (ASRCC) to urge the public to leave wild animal rescues to the professionals.
The snake in question is a Yellow-bellied Sea Snake, which is currently in the care of ASRCC after it was rescued from Toowoon Bay Beach.
According to ASRCC Coordinator, Cathy Gilmore, the sea snake beached itself on Toowoon Bay Beach multiple times throughout May, but members of the public kept returning it to the ocean, risking a potentially fatal bite in the process.
When the ASRCC recovered it from the beach, it was suffering from a severe laceration across its head and eye and exhaustion.
“Sea snakes only beach themselves if they’re sick or injured.
“The only other time they beach is if there’s been an environmental cause, like rough seas or heavy storms,” Gilmore said.
Like all other sea snake species, the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake is highly venomous, with one bite containing several different neurotoxins and isotoxins which can cause damage to the skeletal muscle, neuromuscular paralysis, renal damage, and if left untreated, death.
Since being rescued, the reptile, which has been named Mao Loa, has commenced a lengthy rehabilitation under the watch of ASRCC’s Specialist Venomous Carer, Nicola Martin.
This and other recent incidences of mishandled animal care at the hands of the public, including one where a pelican with multiple fishing hooks in its body was captured, given botched treatment by a member of the public at The Entrance and then released, still with hooks in its body, has prompted Gilmore to urge the public to leave sick or injured wild animals to the relevant professionals.
“When we heard people had handled Mao Loa multiple times we were floored.
“One bite and they could have been goners.
“Nobody should be handling sick or injured wild animals if they don’t know what they’re doing, especially venomous ones, so please don’t put yourself in that situation,” she said.
ASRCC is the only service on the Central Coast licenced to perform marine reptile rescues and rehabilitation.
“Aside from turtles and other marine reptiles, we also conduct seabird rescues and rehab,” Gilmore said.
For land based wildlife, Gilmore urges the public to contact WIRES or Wildlife ARC.
According to Gilmore, Mao Loa has been healing well and has caused quite a stir in the NSW wildlife rescue circuit.
“The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake is an open ocean species and they’re not particularly common rescues, so he’s become a bit of a celebrity,” she said.
During his time in care, the ASRCC was also able to capture extremely rare footage of the snake shedding, which has gone viral.
“Unlike land snakes that utilise the environment to help them shed, sea snakes tie themselves up in knots in this intricate dance to help them shed.
“It’s quite the site to behold,” Gilmore said.
While Mao Loa’s recovery is progressing well, ASRCC is unsure he’ll be ready for release prior to spring.

Interview, Jun 17
Cathy Gilmore, Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast
Dilon Luke, Journalist

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