7 September 2023

Washed-up South Coast visitor scores lucky break

| Zoe Cartwright
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two women with injured sea turtle

Bob (or Blanche) arrived at Mudgeroo Emu Farm and Animal Refuge two weeks ago in poor condition. Photo: Mudgeroo Emu Farm and Animal Refuge.

There are plenty of welcome visitors to the South Coast’s beautiful beaches, but some are a little more precious than others.

One of those extra-special visitors, Bob (or possibly Blanche) the hawksbill sea turtle, was saved from the brink of death thanks to a quick-thinking passer-by and the expertise at Mudgeroo Emu Farm and Animal Refuge.

The juvenile turtle – carer Belinda Donovan estimates he’s aged between 10 and 30 and not yet sexually mature – was spotted inert on a beach near Moruya.

Fortunately for Bob (or Blanche; it is difficult to tell the gender of juvenile hawksbill turtles), an experienced former wildlife carer found them and knew exactly what to do.

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She called Australian Seabird and Turtle Rescue immediately and drove Bob to the nearest volunteer rescue centre, Mudgeroo, 140 km away in Jervis Bay.

“Because of that swiftness, we were able to settle him and rehydrate him really well,” Belinda said.

“We found a deceased green sea turtle in Jervis Bay a couple of days ago and found out people had seen it sitting there days before.

“People often think they’re dead or try to throw them back into the water when they’re ill like that. Luckily, that wasn’t Bob’s fate.”

When Bob arrived, he had a wound on his flipper and another on his body, as well as lots of things living and growing on his shell, a sign he had been suffering for some time.

While the cause of his injuries is a mystery, the team at Mudgeroo wasted no time rehydrating and stabilising Bob before taking him to the vet to begin treating his wounds.

sea turtle

Bob (or Blanche) enjoys the rehabilitation pool, looking much cleaner and healthier after a couple of weeks of care. Photo: Mudgeroo Emu Farm and Animal Refuge.

“These guys spend most of their lives in the water, so for him to be on the beach means he’s been through a great deal of trauma and can’t swim anymore,” Belinda said.

“He’s showing really good signs of healing and has started eating, which is fantastic.

“It is slow progress for reptiles, and he’ll be in care as long as it takes to make sure he’s fit for release. These guys can live up to 80 years of age and only reach sexual maturity between 25 and 40.”

Although some people might be surprised to hear of a tropical turtle washing up this far south, Belinda said it was not uncommon.

Not much is known about how and where the critically endangered hawksbill turtles live after they’re born and before they mature, but there are plenty of sightings of them in the oceans off the South Coast.

Australian Seabird and Turtle Rescue South Coast receives about six calls a year for turtles needing care.

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The signs are good that in time Bob will make a full recovery, return to the wild and hopefully grow to maturity, when her or she will return to the place they were born – and hopefully have babies of their own.

The turtle’s population has declined by almost 80 per cent in the past 120 years and is estimated to be fewer than 30,000 individuals.

Of those, the World Wildlife Fund believes a little more than 8000 are adult nesting females, making Bob all the more precious.

To support the Mudgeroo Emu Farm and Animal Rescue, head to the organisation’s GoFundMe page.

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