Turtle hatchlings rescued on Bunbury beaches released at Ningaloo

Shannon VerhagenSouth Western Times
Dolphin Discovery Centre volunteer Angie Hooper, aquarist Jan Tierney and volunteer Bob Stark with some of the turtles released back into the ocean.
Camera IconDolphin Discovery Centre volunteer Angie Hooper, aquarist Jan Tierney and volunteer Bob Stark with some of the turtles released back into the ocean. Credit: Kate Fielding/Picture: Kate Fielding

Four baby loggerhead turtles rescued far from home and nursed back to health by the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre have been released at Ningaloo.

Each year, a number of the endangered species’ hatchlings get stuck in the Leeuwin current, sweeping them hundreds of kilometres south from the warm waters of the Gascoyne region and leaving them stranded on South West beaches.

The turtle hatchlings rescued off the South West coast swam off happily into the warm waters of Ningaloo Marine Park.
Camera IconThe turtle hatchlings rescued off the South West coast swam off happily into the warm waters of Ningaloo Marine Park. Credit: Parks and Wildlife Service

In late March, 11 of them — the other seven of which were cared for by AQWA — were released into Ningaloo Marine Park by Exmouth’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions staff.

“They were just raring to go,” marine program officer Dani Rob said. “As soon as they smelt the salt water they were moving about and looking really excited. It was beautiful to see them swim off – a really nice, warm and fuzzy moment.”

Ms Rob commended the rehabilitation work of the Dolphin Discovery Centre and AQWA to get them fit and healthy for release back to the wild.

Turtle hatchlings rescued off the South West coast last year were released into the warm waters of Ningaloo Marine Park.
Camera IconTurtle hatchlings rescued off the South West coast last year were released into the warm waters of Ningaloo Marine Park. Credit: Parks and Wildlife Service

At home in the warm waters of the Gascoyne coast, Ms Rob said once they were swept south they went into cold water shock, causing them to lose weight and increasing their risk of being taken by predators.

“When they’re young they live in deep water, thousands of kilometres off the coast,” she said. “And they’re out there as there’s not as many predators. When they’re bigger they come back onto reef systems and forage.”

The smallest – recued last year – weighed in at just 0.5kg, while the largest – rescued in 2018 – tipped the scales at 18kg.

It is the smallest number released in the past three years, with 24 released in 2018 and 33 in 2019.

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