A critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle and endangered Green Turtle, both found in poor condition have been rehabilitated and released by Taronga Zoo.
The Green Turtle was observed by a dive shop owner floating unusually in the shallows of Terrigal Haven, and the Hawkesbill Turtle was found washed ashore at Bulli. They were both brought to the Taronga Wildlife Hospital for veterinary assessment and care.
“The turtles were very lethargic and the Green Turtle was covered in barnacles suggesting that it hadn’t been active for some time” said Taronga Wildlife Hospital nurse Amy Twentyman.
“Further assessments showed that neither of the turtles had any injuries which is a welcome relief, we see lots of marine animals that are injured through human carelessness, often they suffer fish hooks or fishing line injuries, or ingest of plastic bags which they mistake for food items.”
Both Turtles were monitored closely and given courses of antibiotics to fight off any infection. It wasn’t long before they were transferred from the wildlife intensive care unit to a large pool where they could swim, dive and build up their strength in readiness to return to the open ocean.
Just over a month after arriving at the Zoo the turtle’s were released thanks to the help of Sydney Water Police. Five nautical miles out from Sydney Heads the wildlife nurses lifted them over the Police boat’s rail and watched them plunge in to the sea, disappearing almost instantly.
“We hope that the female Hawksbill will travel back to her breading grounds and continue to contribute to the survival of her species” said Amy.
“Nursing an animal back to full health and then releasing it back to the wild is one of the best things about my job.”
“Turtles have lived on the planet since the age of dinosaurs, in our day and age they face many hazards like marine debris and pollution, so to think that I have helped extend the life of two of these ancient creatures is exceptionally gratifying.”
There are seven species of marine turtles in the world and six occur in Australian waters. All six species have suffered population declines as a result of pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, plastic bag ingestion, depletion of food stocks, boat-related injuries, loss of shoreline breeding areas and egg predation by species such as foxes and dogs.
Marine turtles are recognised internationally as a species of conservation concern and are listed in the World Conservation Union Red List of Threatened Animals.