Flint, M., Mills, P. C., Loban, F. et al. 2017. Development of a humane slaughter device for green turtles for use by traditional owners in the Torres Strait Islands, Australia. PLOS ONE 12(1), e0167849.
Marine turtles are caught and slaughtered for consumption as part of traditional indigenous community harvest in Australia as well as in many countries in which marine turtles can be found. However, changes to the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 in 2012 resulted in Australian indigenous hunters becoming potentially liable to prosecution for using traditional practices to slaughter marine turtles. To provide indigenous hunters with an alternative scientifically tested method to hunt, we developed and tested a humane method as an option to use in indigenous communities. Between 2012 and 2015, a device was developed, tested on 11 carcasses to determine effectiveness and repeatability, used on 5 anaesthetised animals independently diagnosed as candidates for euthanasia, and ultimately used on 2 healthy, conscious animals as part of normal indigenous community subsistence harvesting under observation before being left with the communities for use. Feedback was sought from the communities on the suitability and potential adoption of the device. The device effectively ablated the hind brain and severed the spinal cord when deployed in 81% (9/11) of the tested carcasses, with death in 100% (5/5) of turtles, on average, within 78 seconds of deployment on anaesthetised turtles and death in 100% (2/2) of turtles, on average, within 144 seconds when deployed on healthy turtles within community. Failure to ablate the hindbrain and sever the spinal cord in the cadaver cases was due to incorrect deployment of the device. This device showed promise as an alternative euthanasia method available to indigenous communities of the Torres Straits. Further work is required to encourage acceptance by hunters.