Turtle carcass creates excitement

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OVER the years, Lloyd Esler has recreated the skeletons of creatures ranging in size from rats to an ostrich.
‘When I am visiting schools I do a lot of talking about birds and animals and anatomy.’
— Lloyd Esler
But the Invercargill teacher, his› torian and author is particularly excited about his latest challenge — reassembling his first sea turtle.
‘‘This is the first time I have had a reptile so the anatomy is quite different. There are a lot of bones that mammals and birds just don’t have.’’
There are seven species of sea turtle, none of which live anywhere near Southland, he said. Neverthe› less, Mr Esler was told about the remains of a turtle on a beach at Waipapa Point, near Fortrose, and collected the carcass in October.
‘‘What’s probably happened is this critter has come down from the tropics… and drifted across Foveaux Strait. We do get a few visits from turtles from time to time, but this is the only one I have heard of in 20 years.
‘‘This guy or gal — you can tell from the spurs on the flippers but this one’s flippers were missing — has probably died at sea and been nibbled for about a month before I found him. Gulls have probably scavenged him as well.’’
While some of the extremities are missing, he has the important parts including the upper and lower shells and the skull and plans to glue them back together once they have dried.
Mr Esler plans to hang the skele› ton at his Otatara home where it will be surrounded by about 50 different skeletons plus a myriad of other creatures or parts of creatures he has reassembled, stuffed or recreated in fibreglass.
They include shells, skulls, a pick› led octopus in a jar, a water snake, and taxidermied predators such as possums and ferrets.
‘‘They are useful as props. When I am visiting schools I do a lot of talking about birds and animals and anatomy.’’
One of the largest skeletons is an albatross Mr Esler found when he was about 12 and living in Auckland. He said his father was very interested in the natural world and he became hooked himself from a young age.
Mr Esler said he generally had dead creatures in his freezer and had to be careful when selecting food items.
‘‘When I was a boy I used to freeze things in pea packets so they attracted less attention. One day I arrived home from school and my mother was pretty grim›faced because she had cut the end off a pea packet and tipped the contents into boiling water and [what came out] was a frozen rat. There was only one person to pin the blame on and it was me.’’

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