Eight years, hundreds of kilos of squid and thousands of volunteer hours later, a rehabilitation centre is celebrating the release of its 150th green sea turtle.
The Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, off Gladstone, takes in sick and injured turtles along the Queensland coast from Mackay to Bundaberg.
The animals are fed lots of squid, love and care until they are healthy and can be returned to the ocean.
Owner Bob McCosker has spent thousands of dollars on the animals since opening the centre more than eight years ago — and says it has all been worth it.
“We’ve got probably 100 volunteers in the region who are involved and who are dedicated, so it’s a big organisation.
“It’s not just us at the other end, on the rehab side, there’s a lot in between to make it happen.”
A unique triple turtle release at Zilzie beach, on the Capricorn Coast, marked the milestone.
“Nature turns on as soon as they can smell that salt water,” Mr McCosker said.
“Their DNA takes over. They’re not looking for the pool anymore. They know what they’re doing out there.”
‘A miracle recovery’
Centre manager Kim van Oudheusden said the turtles washed up in winter, very underweight.
“They had some parasites and they were very unhealthy, so we just cleaned them up, fattened them up, and released them back to the ocean,” she said.
“It was so exciting, especially because it was three, which is quite special. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Ms van Oudheusden said each turtle’s journey to recovery was different.
“One stayed with us for four months, one three months and one two months,” she said.
“The third one, he made a really speedy recovery. He was in the main pool in a week’s time eating and fattening up, and the other ones just needed a little bit more care.
“With Kahana, the second one, we thought she wouldn’t make it so we didn’t give her much of a chance.
“But she was the first one in the water so it was a miracle recovery.”
Andrew the human, releases Andrew the turtle
Andrew Kaney found one of the turtles washed up on Zilzie beach covered in barnacles, algae and leeches.
“It was actually during COVID-19 and we were working from home, and I decided to take my dog for a walk in the middle of the day to get out and get some fresh air,” he said.
“I actually walked past the turtle because it was in such a poor state. It actually looked like a rock. I didn’t take any notice of it.
“My dog hung around it and wouldn’t come, and then she’s looking at me, and I said, ‘What have you found?’
“I went back and it was the turtle. It was in a pretty poor state.”
He called the rehab centre’s local volunteer, Paul Mitchell, who picked up the sick turtle and drove it to Gladstone.
Mr Kaney was moved to see the turtle, named after him, return to the ocean healthy.
“It was a pretty good feeling,” he said.
A message to fishers
The centre constantly sees turtle injuries and deaths as a result of recreational fishing, with hooks, crab pots, and fishing line causing some of the worst trauma.
“Our constant cry is just be really careful with your tackle and your gear,” Mr McCosker said.
“If you know you’re going to get snagged, don’t just break your line off because that’s going to be there for the next thousand years.”
He hoped boaties and fishers would make a move to biodegradable fishing line.
“That’s going to be the ultimate answer because our shorelines and our oceans at the moment, our reefs, are getting just massacred with fishing tackle,” he said.
“It’s sort of overlooked because you can’t see the damage you’re leaving behind.