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Mayonnaise helps save sea turtles rescued from oil spill

In Israel, the condiment proves a miracle cure for tar-coated turtles

Israel Oil Spill Guy Ivgy cleans 6-month-old green sea turtle from tar after an oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea, at Israel's Sea Turtle Rescue Center, in Michmoret, Israel | AP

Mayonnaise that makes a perfect sandwich is saving tar-coated turtles that have washed ashore after oil spills, the Associated Press reported.

The oil spill that has occurred about 50 km offshore, estimated to be in early February, has coated most of Israel’s 195 kilometers of Mediterranean coastline with sticky tar.

The hundreds of tons of oil from an oil tanker pose a particularly serious threat to sea turtles, since they breathe and eat at the water's surface and their trachea is fully blotted with tar.

National Sea Turtle Rescue Center, run by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, was able to transport 11 endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) to Michmoret, north of Tel Aviv, for medical treatment, the AP reported.

The rescued turtles are fed with mayonnaise as a medicine since is found to be safe, non-toxic effective method in clearing the guts of tar-laden turtles.

How it works

Mayonnaise-type emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that normally do not combine in normal circumstances. It is made by combining lemon juice or vinegar with egg yolks. When one ingredient to slowly added to another and mixing rapidly, it disperses and suspends tiny droplets of oil between droplets of water, creating a uniform sauce.

“We continue to feed them substances like mayonnaise, which practically clean the system and break down the tar,” Guy Ivgy, a medical assistant at the Sea Turtle Rescue Center in Michmoret, north of Tel Aviv, told Times of Israel.

However, the recovery process is slow that is expected to take a couple of weeks, after which the turtles would be sent back to their natural habitat.

Thousands of cleaning workers and volunteers are engaged in removing tar from Israel’s beaches, which may take several months.

The Environmental Protection Ministry has already begun looking into the cause of the oil spill.

According to AP, an Israeli court barred publication of all details of the investigation, including the name of the suspected ship believed to have spilled the oil, its route and ports of call. An Israeli journalists’ association have moved the court to have the order lifted.