Sydney, 21 April 2022 – SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium has proudly released three, now healthy, juvenile turtles, Avalon the Hawksbill Sea Turtle and Warnie and Cuttler, two Loggerhead Turtles, back into the ocean, at Zenith Beach, Port Stephens, NSW.
Avalon, the Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), a species listed as critically endangered, was found washed up on Avalon Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches on 18th November 2020, by a member of the public who called the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium rescue hotline.
The juvenile was in very poor condition, weighing only 3.8kgs, extremely malnourished and underweight, dehydrated and lethargic, with a high volume of biofouling; barnacles, algae growth, etc. indicating she had likely been adrift for a long time.
Experts at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour carefully collected her but were not sure she would pull through and immediately began an intensive care program. Initial treatment on arrival was to provide a safe space to rest and rehydrate.
Following that the team of Aquarists, led by SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium Curatorial Supervisor Ben Wynand, and the in-house veterinary team, focussed on her feeding, her swimming ability and patiently improving her overall body condition.
Wynand said “At SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, we take care of turtles in-house, who can no longer be released and become ambassadors for their species. In this instance we were able to apply our skillset to a wild animal, to care for her, bring her back to good health and return her to her natural home in the wild.
“This was a great success. We love to get them home and give them a second chance at life. It means the world to our team!”
Avalon, who could barely forage for food when rescued in November 2020, now weighs 13.6kgs, is strong, healthy and was deemed fit for release. She was taken to Zenith Beach, Port Stephens, NSW, where she showed the team how far she had come, powerfully swimming straight off, as soon as she was carefully walked into and placed in the water.
Zenith Beach is as far South as you can release a Hawksbill Sea Turtle, and was selected based on strict codes of practice and information provided by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries, who SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium often partners with on sea life rescue projects.
Joining Avalon were a pair of Loggerhead Sea Turtles that had been under the expert care of SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium. Cutler, found on Cutler Beach in Gippsland, VIC and Warnie, found in Warrnambool, VIC were both discovered in desperate need of TLC in late 2021.
The pair were found to be affected by a condition known as “Floater Syndrome”, which results in the turtles being positively buoyant at the surface of the water and prevents them from being able to dive under the water and hunt for food. In the weeks prior to their arrival there were extreme storms along the east coast of Australia and it is suspected that they got caught in a storm-front, bringing them to Southern Victoria. The sudden drop in water temperature would have shocked the turtle’s system resulting in in them being positively buoyant.
“Loggerhead sea turtles are not commonly found this far south, and the vast majority that end up in southern Victoria are here because they are either caught in strong storms or currents, or they are very weak from an underlying illness or injury” explained Dr Brett De Poister, consulting veterinarian.
Cuttler and Warnie responded well to supportive care including rehydration, acclimating them back to optimal temperatures, nutritional support and of course TLC from the aquarists and veterinary team. Fortunately both Warnie and Cuttler were rescued soon after they arrived in Victoria and made a speedy recovery.
Once deemed fit for release, the Loggerheads were rubbed in Vaseline, carefully packed into crates and flown to Sydney, bound for warmer waters for their best chance to thrive in the wild. There, they spent a few weeks in the care of SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, prior to being released alongside Avalon the Hawksbill at Zenith Beach.
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium will often have rescue turtles such as Avalon, Warnie and Cuttler that have been found to have ingested plastic which they have mistaken as food. These turtles serve as ambassadors for their species and remind us to be more environmentally conscious by reducing plastic wastage and choosing sustainable fisheries.
Members of the public who see a sick or injured sea turtle, are asked to please call the Sea Life Animal rescue Centre on 0402 783 455.
To learn more about turtles Avalon, Warnie and Cuttler and other rescue and release, conservation and breeding programs and partnerships, come and visit the passionate teams at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium.