Mayo Is Miracle Cure For Sea Turtles Caught In Oil Spill, Israeli Scientists Find

Israeli Parks Authorities have found a novel way to help save sea turtles caught in oil spills. Apparently, mayonnaise has been the key to helping endangered sea turtles.

Israel’s National Sea Turtle Rescue Center has more endangered sea turtles in need of help right now. An oil spill has devastated the region and coated 120 miles of the Mediterranean coastline with sticky tar and oil. Because of the spill many animals, including sea turtles, are in need of rescue.

The toxic substances need to be removed from the animal’s system.

“They came to us full of tar. All their trachea from inside and outside was full of tar,” Guy Ivgy, a medical assistant at the Sea Turtle Rescue Center, explained to the Associated Press. The workers needed to find a creative way to remove the oil and tar. In the end, it turned out that mayonnaise was the cure.

How does mayonnaise help?

Mayonnaise is essentially a combination of water and oil. The water comes from the eggs and lemon juice in the recipe. And if you have ever tried to combine water and oil, you will know how difficult it is.

The trick is to create an emulsion. An emulsion combines oil and water with the help of an additional ingredient that can bind to both water and oil. In the case of mayonnaise, that is a molecule called lecithin, which is found in egg yokes.

Emulsions are designed to grab onto oils.

You can think of lecithin as having two sides. One side loves oil and wants to grab onto it. The other side loves water and wants to grab onto water, but repels oils. So, as the lecithin travels through the turtle's system, one side grabs onto the oily tar while the other side pushes away from the moisture in the digestive tract. This helps break down and clear out the tar and oil.

Mayonnaise is key to the treatment.

To flush the turtle’s digestive tracks, rescuers fed mayonnaise to the turtles. “We continue to feed them substances like mayonnaise, which practically clean the system and break down the tar,” Ivgy said. The treatment takes about two weeks, after which many turtles are ready to be released back into the wild.

The Israel Environmental Protection Ministry is still investigating the cause of the oil spill.

The oil spill is the worst ecological disaster on record in Israel. It has endangered and killed many animals. But the work of the Sea Turtle Rescue Center is helping to mitigate some of this tragedy. Thanks to their innovative treatment and the thousands of volunteers helping to clean the spill, little lives will be saved.

h/t: Live Science, AP News