Volunteers saving our shell-shocked wildlife

Holly ThompsonSound Telegraph
One of the loggerhead turtles at Perth Zoo, getting ready for rehabilitation in Rockingham.
Camera IconOne of the loggerhead turtles at Perth Zoo, getting ready for rehabilitation in Rockingham. Credit: Picture: Alex Asbury

Rockingham’s Environment Centre has called on residents to keep an eye out for turtles washed up on local beaches after an increased number have been swept up by frequent and powerful storms.

Loggerhead turtles are carried south from Ningaloo by the Leeuwin Current and can get as far as Albany before washing ashore.

Rockingham Regional Environment Centre volunteer Pauline Whitehead said the endangered turtles were likely found washed up around the Safety Bay area.

“The ones that are washing up this year are actually in better condition than what they have been in previous years because the heavy swells are bringing them down a lot faster,” she said.

“The longer they take to come down the weaker they are, the more likely they are to have infections or to be attacked by predators.

“They also get what’s called floating syndrome, when they swallow plastics they think are jellyfish which then means they are unable to dive to get food — the faster they wash up the better.”

Ms Whitehead said the turtles usually washed up between July and September and wanted to stress that people should not put them back in the water.

Picture: Holly Thompson
Camera IconPicture: Holly Thompson Credit: Holly Thompson/ Sound Telegraph

“They will just end up being swept into colder and colder water, which is not good for them,” she said.

“Please place the turtle in a box and call the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055. The turtles will be taken to Perth Zoo where they are treated until they are ready for rehabilitation.”

Ms Whitehead said the turtles from Perth Zoo were taken to one of three rehabilitation centres, one being in Rockingham.

“They are looked after for 12 to 18 months until they are judged to be strong enough to survive in the wild,” she said.

“They are then taken north by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and released, hopefully to return to the beach they first hatched at in 20 to 25 years to lay their eggs.”

Perth Zoo confirmed it had given ICU treatment to 26 loggerhead and green turtles in the last few weeks.

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