Turtle season begins in Queensland

Turtle season begins in Queensland

Sea turtle hatchlings will draw thousands to Mon Repos near Bundaberg. Photo: Paul HarrisTurtle power has been on display up the Queensland coast as shelled reptiles young and old entered or re-entered the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.

Izzy, a 120-kilogram green sea turtle, spent a year in hospital at the Reef HQ Aquarium after she was attacked by a crocodile and hit by a boat.

Her release back to the wild coincided with the start of turtle hatching season down the coast at Bundaberg.

Reef HQ Aquarium director Fred Nucifora said most turtles needed to be rehabilitated for up to six months, but Izzy’s injuries meant her stay was more than a year.

Izzy and 53.4-kilogram Evie, who was found stranded in mangroves in July, were released in Bowen, where they both were found.

“Our staff develop connections with our turtles but we know our end game is to see them go back fit and healthy into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” Mr Nucifora said.

“So while the release day is tinged with a touch of sadness, it’s more happiness when we see them go back.”

One of those staff members was turtle carer Krystal Huff, who helped nurse both Izzy and Evie back to health prior to their release in the waters off Bowen.

“The green sea turtles are actually loyal to a feed ground and a breeding ground and they will swim between these two,” she said.

“So we have brought them back to Bowen where they were found, hoping that this is very close to their feeding ground, so they can just go back to their normal life, without having to swim all the way here.”

A satellite tag has been attached to Izzy so researchers can follow her progress.

Down the coast on Mon Repos beach near Bundaberg, tiny loggerhead turtles have started to make their way into the world.

Thousands of visitors are expected to travel to Mon Repos Regional Park, the largest turtle rookery in the South Pacific, to see the hatchlings as they emerge from the rookery and take on the surf for the first time.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger-in-charge Cathy Gatley said the first turtle tracks were spotted last month.

Already, 180 loggerheads and three flatback turtles had arrived to lay their clutches of eggs.

Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism general manager Rick Matkowski said he hoped more than 28,000 would visit the rookery this season.

“There is no better place in Australia to experience this extraordinary natural encounter, so we expect this to be a huge drawing card for tourists, both locally and internationally,” he said.

“The opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures is once-in-a-lifetime for most people, but witnessing them lay eggs, or even watching the first breaths of a hatchling, is jaw-dropping.”

Last season, 372 loggerheads, 12 flatbacks and two green turtles came ashore at Mon Repos.

Rookery tours at Mon Repos will run until March 22, 2015.