Reef HQ Aquarium is celebrating World Turtle Day today (Thursday 23 May) by introducing its newest celebrity turtle to the world.
Little Leroy the flatback arrived at Reef HQ’s turtle hospital last month with floating syndrome and quickly won the hearts of aquarium staff and volunteers.
Reef HQ Aquarium Director Fred Nucifora said Leroy weighed just 600 grams and had a shell length of 17.5cm when he was brought in by Girringun Indigenous rangers four weeks ago.
“He’s special for a number of reasons,” Mr Nucifora said. “He’s small and cute, and he’s only the fourth flatback turtle we’ve had at the hospital since it opened in 2009.
“The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles. But 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.”
Aquarist Krystal Huff said Leroy was found by a coral trout fisherman near Orpheus Island off Ingham.
“The fisherman called the hotline, they got in touch with the Girringun Indigenous rangers, and the rangers brought the turtle into the hospital,” she said.
“The timing was fantastic because the two rangers involved had only recently completed training with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service on how to respond to turtle call-outs.”
She said the rangers named the turtle ‘Leroy’ en route from Cardwell to Townsville.
Ms Huff said Leroy, who is about the size of a bread and butter plate, had made a rapid recovery at the hospital.
“When we X-rayed him, he had air trapped inside his body cavity and was suffering from floating syndrome.
However, he’s recovered quite quickly with good food, nice warm water and lots of tender loving care.”
Since opening in 2009, Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital has cared for 132 turtles and many of these have eventually become well enough to be released back to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
More than 70,000 people have visited the Reef HQ Aquarium turtle hospital since it opened.
To report a sick, injured, stranded or dead marine mammal or turtle, contact 1300 264 625.