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“Taronga today begins satellite tracking rare ocean turtles released after life-saving rehabilitation at the Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital,” Zoo Director, Cameron Kerr, said today.

The project is designed to monitor the survival of rescued turtles injured by people or marine debris in Australasian waters and discover where they go and how well they fare. The first turtle is scheduled to be released today off Sydney Heads carrying a $5000 satellite tracker funded by the sale of Fish For Good re-useable shopping bags in Woolworths stores.

Zoo veterinarians yesterday completed the final pre-release health check of the young Green Turtle, that NSW office of Environment and Heritage staff had brought to Taronga after initial treatment at Sugarloaf. It was found by locals near Norah Head tangled in fishing line.

Mr Kerr said: “Our staff are very experienced in rehabilitating and releasing ocean turtles and now with special funding from Taronga’s Fish For Good reusable shopping bags sold in Woolworths stores, satellite trackers can be fitted to many turtles brought to the Zoo for treatment and release.”

“The information from the tracking will tell our scientists and veterinarians more about how turtles the Zoo have rehabilitated survive and move after release. It’s important to keep these turtles in the wild for breeding and the genetic health of diminishing wild populations.”

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The funding for the project is coming from the sale of the Fish For Good re-usable shopping bags specially produced by Woolworths and featuring marine wildlife silhouettes. An initial run of the bags sold very quickly early this year in Woolworths stores nationally and it is hoped that over $120,000 will be raised to support Taronga’s turtle tracking program.

Zoo veterinarian, Dr Kimberly Vinette Herrin, said: “This is the first time Taronga Zoo has done this as our own project, tracking marine turtles that have been hurt by marine debris or humans.  The trackers are glued to the turtles’ shells. Whenever the turtle surfaces, the tracker sends a signal to the satellite so we can monitor the animal’s whereabouts.

Taronga’s work on projects with marine research organisations like the US National Marine Fisheries Service in Honolulu has helped reveal where young loggerhead turtles go after hatching.

The Zoo works closely with National Parks staff and gets support from NSW Water Police to help release turtles off the coast.  A rare Hawksbill Turtle that has also been rehabilitated at the Zoo, is also expected to be released by OEH staff at Port Stephens later this week and it will also be tracked.

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