Researchers and members of the public will be able to follow the adventures of Phillip the green sea turtle online when he is released back into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park tomorrow (Wednesday 30 October).
Phillip, who is thought to be more than 50 years old, was taken to the Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital after being found in a weak state and floating near West Point in June 2012 by a member of the Magnetic Island Network for Turtles.
A satellite tracker donated by James Cook University will be attached to Phillip to monitor his movement within the Marine Park.
Reef HQ Aquarium director Fred Nucifora said Phillip was given the all-clear to return home after he regained his health and steadily put on weight.
“He came to the hospital weighing 60 kilograms, and a green turtle of that size really should be up around 100 kilograms,” he said.
“Phillip’s rehabilitation has been particularly lengthy and has included courses of antibiotics and a lot of rest and recuperation.
“He has spent the past nine months in Reef HQ Aquarium’s predator tank to acquaint him with his natural habitat and enable him to continue to put on weight.
“While he was in the tank, he formed a strong bond with Cuddles the tawny nurse shark, so we’re keeping a close eye on Cuddles over the next few days just to make sure there’s no separation anxiety.
“We are very proud to be sending Phillip home. It makes the months of hard work on his rehabilitation worthwhile.
“And like all of our turtle patients that we’ve released back into the Marine Park, Phillip has helped to raise awareness of how a strong and healthy turtle population is important to the Great Barrier Reef.”
Mr Nucifora said the use of satellite trackers on marine turtles provides valuable data that will help improve management of this vulnerable species.
Phillip’s travels can be tracked at www.seaturtle.org/tracking.
Since opening in 2009, Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital has cared for more than 150 turtles and many of these have eventually become well enough to be released back to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
More than 90,000 people have visited the Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital since it opened.