Endangered Loggerhead Set to Unlock Turtle's Lost Years
Friday 20th January 2012
Loggerhead Turtle released into the ocean at Lord Howe Island
Loggerhead Turtle released into the ocean at Lord Howe Island

A rehabilitated Loggerhead Turtle released off Lord Howe Island will assist researchers with the mysterious migration habits of the endangered species.

Thanks to QantasLink and Australian Air Express the turtle was flown to Lord Howe Island and released offshore by Marine Park Rangers into the East Australian Current, where juvenile Loggerhead Turtles would be feeding.

NSW Environment Minister, Robyn Parker said: “It is fantastic to be able to release this remarkable creature back into the wild and know that it will also contribute to future conservation of the species.” 

“The Zoo rehabilitates and release many marine turtles each year at the Wildlife Hospital but the ability to track one’s movements through the research project and shed light on this unknown topic is definitely an added bonus.”

The turtle arrived at Taronga Wildlife Hospital in Sydney as a 61 gram hatchling with a fractured flipper in March 2010. After initial veterinary care at Taronga, the tiny turtle was taken to Oceanworld Manly to grow and increase its chance of survival in the wild. It then returned to Taronga Wildlife Hospital to ensure that the fractured flipper was fully functional.

Taronga Wildlife Hospital Manager, Libby Hall said; “It has taken a few months of physiotherapy to ensure the flipper has regained full movement and the turtle is able to manoeuvre properly. It’s now fit for release.”

“Weighing a healthy 12.5kg we have fitted a state of the art satellite tracker provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service in Hawaii which is the collaborative partner on this project.”

“The device is designed to turn on and log its location through satellites which is then transmitted to us creating a plotted map of the turtle’s movements.”

“Little is known about the migration of juvenile Loggerhead Turtles in the South Pacific.  They leave their nesting islands in Queensland as tiny hatchlings and do not return again until they are breeding adults over 30 years of age.  Where they go during this time and what they do is a mystery, this is what we are attempting to uncover.”

“A loggerhead tracked by us in 2010 resulted in the first-ever data recorded for this area of the Pacific.  The turtle covered 4,746kms over 237 days. The final recorded location was off the tip of New Zealand’s North Island.”

Fishery by-catch is implicated as one of the factors contributing to the species’ decline.  Similar tracking of Loggerhead Turtles in the North Pacific and understanding their migration patterns has allowed scientists to formulate long line fishing recommendations aimed at decreasing turtle by-catch in the oceans around Hawaii.

Loggerhead Turtle nesting studies have shown significant decline in the past 50 years resulting in Loggerhead Turtles being listed as endangered worldwide.