Israel pollution: Mayonnaise helps save turtles rescued from oil spill

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image captionTurtles have been covered in tar after an oil spill

Turtles rescued from an oil spill that has left globs of black tar across Israel's coastline are being given mayonnaise as medicine.

Officials at the National Sea Turtle Rescue Center say the condiment is helping to clear the reptiles' digestive tracts.

The oil spill is one of Israel's worst environmental disasters on record.

Officials are investigating the cause of the spill, which is thought to have come from a vessel out at sea.

Thousands of volunteers and soldiers have been helping to remove the sticky substance, which has been damaging wildlife, including endangered green sea turtles.

Yaniv Levy, founder and director of the National Sea Turtle Rescue Center, told Israel's Haaretz newspaper that about 27 turtles were being treated, six of which arrived with tar damage.

"They all got here with a coat of tar on their heads, and in their eyes, nostrils, mouth, digestive system and stomach," he said.

"With this kind of damage they have no chance to survive without treatment. We removed the tar from their nostrils and eyes so they could breathe and see."

Mr Levy said staff had been using vegetable oil to thin the tar, and then mayonnaise to dilute it and remove it from the sides of the stomach and intestines.

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"They came to us full of tar. All their trachea from inside and outside was full of tar," medical assistant Guy Ivgy told the Associated Press news agency.

"We continue to feed them substances like mayonnaise, which practically clean the system and break down the tar," he added.

The recovery process is expected to take a week or two, after which rescuers say the animals will be released back to the wild.

While it might sound like an unusual remedy, it is not the first time that mayonnaise has been used to treat turtles.

The Turtle Hospital in Florida describes mayonnaise as being "safe, non-toxic and effective in cleaning sea turtles coated in oil".

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