In recent headlines a new study has revealed that over half of all sea turtles have ingested plastic. Before we went to the turtle hospital they gave a talk about sea turtles. They said that the turtles (and other marine life) have been able to eat anything they find in the oceans for thousands of centuries. The sea turtles, of course, don’t realise anything has changed and so when they see some brightly coloured object floating in the water they don’t realise it is something that could harm them. That, together with the other recent news of the decline of all marine life over the last several decades makes for a very sad state of our ocean life. The turtle hospital at the Reef HQ Aquarium does their part by educating people and rehabilitating sea turtles. All of the sea turtles found in the Great Barrier Reef are threatened species. We were lucky to have a chance to visit the hospital while we were in Townsville. They had half a dozen or so large tanks set up with rescued turtles in them. Many of them had what’s known as ‘floating syndrome’ which prevents them from diving. That means they can’t eat and are at the mercy of ocean currents. See the chunk missing out of this one’s shell? It won’t grow back, but the edge will heal a bit. I think this turtle was just about ready to go the main tank in the aquarium. They put the turtles in the tank to be sure they will adapt to having predators nearby before releasing them into the ocean. Did you know sea turtles can’t retract their heads and limbs into their shells the way land turtles can? The hospital cared for turtles from the very young to those decades old. We were fascinated and among the last to leave. I could have happily spent the rest of the day there, watching the sea turtles and learning more about them. If I remember correctly they said sea turtles could hold their breath for an hour. We were delighted when several of them kept surfacing as we watched. They were adorable. That doesn’t seem like the right word, but that’s what they were. Adorable. The tanks contain some less saltwater than in the ocean. They mix in extra freshwater to help the turtles recover more quickly. There was a small area with a bit more information on the different kinds of sea turtles. The x-rays were fascinating. There was even an old shell you could pick up and look at. The turtle hospital was probably my favourite part of our visit to the aquarium. They only open the hospital to visitors a couple of times a day, so if you are visiting make sure to check the schedule. See the other parts of our visit to the aquarium here and here.
The Turtle Hospital at the Reef HQ Aquarium
posted in: Queensland
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