A big green turtle that narrowly escaped being on a crocodile’s lunch menu, and a smaller green turtle found stranded in muddy mangroves, will be sent home to the Great Barrier Reef during a community event in Bowen this Thursday.
Both animals have been recovering from their ordeals at Reef HQ Aquarium’s turtle hospital in Townsville.
Aquarist Krystal Huff said one of the turtles, Izzy — rescued by Ecobarge Clean Seas volunteers after she was washed up on a Whitsundays beach — had suffered a series of traumatic experiences before entering into care in August last year.
“Izzy had very distinct holes in her shell, tail and flipper, and scrapes down the side of her body,” Krystal said.
“However, it was apparent that she had more than a close encounter with a croc. She also had a previous and relatively fresh break in her shell that was clearly the result of a serious boat strike.
“Although crocodiles sometimes catch and eat sea turtles, this one was almost certainly taking advantage of the already weakened condition of Izzy and opportunistically trying to snag a meal.
“Despite this, an adult turtle is no easy target even for a big predator like a crocodile, and with some luck and no doubt determination, Izzy was able to escape intact.”
At 120 kilograms, Izzy is thought to be more than 40 years old and is one of the biggest turtles to have been treated at the turtle hospital.
When found on Conway Beach, she was emaciated and dehydrated.
“Even when she was admitted to the hospital, it took quite some time for her to regain her strength and appetite. And while the soft tissue healed up quickly, it took a lot longer for the shell to heal,” said Krystal.
“In the end, she fought against all odds and recovered. She still retains a number of battle scars on her shell, but thanks to a nourishing diet and medical care, she’s now well enough to go home.”
The other green turtle returning home, Evie, was found fatigued and stuck in mangroves at Brisk Bay in Bowen.
“Evie is about 25 to30 years old. She was slightly underweight at around 47 kilograms, but after five months in care, she is now a healthy 53.4 kilograms, thanks to some TLC, food, worming and warm water,” said Krystal.
The Bowen Sea Turtle Assessment and Rehabilitation facility helped in the recovery of both turtles by providing initial treatments before the animals were delivered to the turtle hospital.
As a way to mark the strong community interest and support for Reef HQ Aquarium’s turtle hospital, the public is invited to view the release of Izzy and Evie back into the Marine Park.
The event will take place at the Port Denison Sailing Club in Bowen on 27 November between 9am and 10am.
Since opening in 2009, the turtle hospital has cared for 177 marine turtles, with many eventually becoming well enough to be released back into the ocean.