Little Leroy flippers out into the big wide world

The pint-sized patient that won the hearts of visitors and staff alike at Reef HQ Aquarium’s turtle hospital is on his way home.

After an eight-month stint in care, Leroy the flatback turtle has been released back into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Aquarist Krystal Huff said Leroy had fully recovered from floating syndrome and was released today from Orpheus Island off Ingham where he was originally found by a fisherman.

“When Leroy was admitted into the turtle hospital in April, he weighed just 600 grams and had a shell length of about 17 centimetres,” Krystal said.

“X-rays showed he had gas trapped in his body, which was preventing him from diving for food.

“But fortunately, all it took was warm water and time for his condition to improve rapidly.

“At first he was a fussy eater and would only eat small bits of prawn, but soon he was guzzling entire squid heads.

“It meant he put on weight rapidly and is now tipping the scales at 1.6 kilograms, which is more than double the weight he had when he came to us. His shell has also grown in length to nearly 24 centimetres.”

The juvenile flatback, who is thought to be only two or three years old, also managed to build a high profile during his rehabilitation.

“Leroy can definitely consider himself a celebrity. He’s been on national breakfast TV and was a real hit when he featured on Reef Live — an event that attracted an international audience on YouTube,” Krystal said.

“We all became quite attached to him, not just because he’s small, but because he has a big personality.

“He liked to jam himself under a water pipe to sleep and would peck at the drain to let us know of his displeasure every time we emptied his tank.

“While we love seeing turtles recover so they can go back into the Marine Park, there are some turtles we really miss — and I suspect Leroy will definitely be one of those.”

The fisherman who originally found Leroy was able to get help for the little flatback by calling the Marine Strandings Hotline which in turn contacted the Girringun Indigenous Rangers in Cardwell. The rangers then made the trip to Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville with their turtle patient in tow.

Leroy is the smallest flatback turtle to be cared for in the turtle hospital, and only the fourth flatback to be rehabilitated in the facility since it opened in 2009.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles. Unlike the other Great Barrier Reef turtle species which nest both in Australia and other tropical parts of the world, flatbacks have only been found nesting on Australian beaches.

To report a sick, injured, stranded or dead marine mammal or turtle, contact 1300 ANIMAL (264 265).