The release of a green turtle found in a weak state on Magnetic Island will mark the beginning of a new partnership to help expand the Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital.
‘Fin’ – who is thought to be 15 to 20 years old – was admitted to the turtle hospital in April this year, after Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers found the turtle injured and undernourished in shallow water at Cockle Bay.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Chairman Russell Reichelt said SeaLink Queensland has come on-board to raise an extra $50,000 to nurse other turtle patients like Fin back to health.
“Since opening in 2009, Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital has cared for 125 turtles and many of these eventually become well enough to be released back to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” he said.
“Through additional funds we aim to double the capacity of the hospital so we can care for and rehabilitate up to 20 sick and injured turtles at any one time.
“Importantly, this means we’ll be able to return more turtles to the marine park, which is a real win given marine turtles are threatened species.”
SeaLink General Manager Paul Victory said the three year fundraising program was sparked by a desire to do more to protect the diversity and natural wonder of the Great Barrier Reef.
“A strong and vibrant turtle community is important to the Reef and we are very supportive of the fantastic efforts of the staff and volunteers of the Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital,” he said.
“We aim to raise the money through donations, hosting educational turtle tours and other fundraising initiatives.
“We are very pleased to partner with Reef HQ Aquarium in this endeavour.”
The money raised by SeaLink will also be used to raise community awareness about how to protect turtles in the marine park, such as slowing down in boats and keeping a look out while on the water.
Turtle strandings along the Great Barrier Reef increased substantially in 2011 after record floods and cyclone Yasi took a big toll on seagrass which is the main food supply for some turtle species.
More than 60,000 people have visited the Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital since it opened in 2009.