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Rehabilitated Turtles Released at Mooloolaba Beach

SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast released four rehabilitated turtles back into the ocean at Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, on Monday, January 23.

The four green sea turtles, named Jake, Luna, Goku and Cavill, came into the care of SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast between August and November last year. According to SEA LIFE staff, the turtles underwent “extensive” rehabilitation to prepare for their release back into the ocean.

“It’s such an amazing feeling to have four turtles going back out into the ocean at once, it’s such a great way to start the year," staff member Brittany Attwood said. “It’s always bittersweet to release the turtles that we have cared for as we get so attached to them but it’s certainly a win for the species.”

The quadruple release comes ahead of Clean Up for the Hatchlings on February 4, an event which encourages the community to come together to help clean up Sunshine Coast beaches in preparation for breeding season. Credit: SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast via Storyful

Video transcript

- Just tell us about the four beautiful turtles that you will release today.

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yeah, we have four gorgeous green sea turtles that are ready to go today. So they've been in care-- we've got Cavill. He's been our longest one. He's been with us since August. The other kids have been with us since about November. So they have all recovered from numerous things, and they've been cleared by the vet team, so they are ready to go back into that beautiful, blue ocean today.

- Wow. So what are some of the things that-- what states were they found in?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yes. So every time a turtle gets found, they're usually in extremely poor condition. They're quite lethargic from being unwell for a number of months prior to them coming into a rehab center. So we have Cavill. He actually had soft shell syndrome, which is that disease that's been going around in some local turtles.

So he's made a full recovery from that, which is great. We have Jake. So with the help of the team at Aussie Zoo Wildlife Hospital, he actually underwent treatment for having a collapsed lung. And then we have Goose and Luna, and they got treated for floating syndrome.

- Wow. So what kind of work do you do to rehabilitate them here, and what makes them underqualified to be ready to go back out into the ocean?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yes. So we do lots of different types of work. So obviously, we have injectable medicines that they get while they're here. They can get some betadine baths if they've got some skin lesions or carapace lesions. And then, obviously, we can do X-ray imaging as well and run some bloods, just to give them a full work-up.

So the vet team clears them for release once they're in really good body condition. So we at least like to see them at 85% ideal body weight. So all of these guys are very chunky and ready to go.

[LAUGHTER]

- [INAUDIBLE] some final touches today. Are you guys, like, going to track them, or what are you doing before you release them?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yes. So, before we release, they're all getting a microchip and they're getting a flipper tag as well. So that number is in there. It's universal, so if they ever end up in a different rehab center, which hopefully they don't, but if they do, then any center can track their history and know what we've done here.

- Wow. And how incredible is it that they actually can be released? I mean, one of them had a collapsed lung. But when they first came into the aquarium [INAUDIBLE] there's a chance they won't make it?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Look, there's always-- unfortunately, a lot of them don't pull through, which is extremely sad for the species, so we just take it day by day with these guys and do as much as we can. So it's such a great feeling to have four turtles going out at once. It's a great way to start the year.

- Yes. And in 2020, you had a crazy amount of turtles coming to the aquarium. What was that like?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yeah. It was a really busy year. So we had 100 turtles come through our center, so the numbers were, yeah, almost double from what they were last year. So yeah, a huge increase. And it's such a great team here at SEA LIFE Sunny Coast. So we all chip in, and we're all here for these critters, so our main goal was the turtles, getting them fit and healthy and getting them out.

- Do you know what was the cause of so many turtles who needed care?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yeah, I think the flooding-- the flood event that happened at the start of the year. Certainly, a lot of different centers found an increase in their numbers, so that definitely didn't help. The soft shell syndrome disease that had been going around. But in general, most of the turtles that we have coming to care are suffering from the floating syndrome, so that is usually the main one that we see.

- So what can people like me-- what could we do to stop something like that? Is there anything we can do?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yes. So we always encourage, if you're down at the beach, take three for the sea. You know, if you're ever there, pick it up. It stops from getting into a turtle's system. And the other one is, if you do find a sick or injured sea turtle, we encourage anyone to call the marine stranding hotline number. That number is 1300-130-EPA. And the rangers there can get in contact with a rehab center like us here at SEA LIFE and get these turtles the help and care that they need.

- Have I missed anything? Is that most of it?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Don't think so. Yeah.

- Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] Is it a little bit sad to see a turtle go?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: It is always really bittersweet. It's such a huge win for the species, but you do get really attached to them. Every single turtle has a different personality. So yeah, they all have their little quirks, so it is always, you know, very bittersweet seeing them go. But it's great.

- [INAUDIBLE]

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yeah. It's such an amazing feeling. So, we're always striving to try and get as many out as we can, so yeah, again, to have four in one day, that's-- what a great way to start the week.

- [INAUDIBLE]

- Once they get off the beach, what is your hope for the turtles then?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yeah. So our hope is-- so there are some local colonies just around the area-- so [INAUDIBLE] Island. So, hopefully, you know, our aim is that we would like to see them make their way over there, find a lovely seagrass bed, find a good food source, and, fingers crossed, they stay out of trouble and be good turtles, live a happy life.

- And I believe this is your last day as well?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: It is my last day, so yeah, very, extremely emotional. So yeah, it's a great way, great day.

- Aww.

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yeah.

- [INAUDIBLE]

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: I know. [LAUGHS]

- How long have you been working here for?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: I've been here four years. So yeah, it's super bittersweet.

- Did you count how many turtles you've released in that time?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: We would be in, like, the hundreds, of how many we've released. So yeah, it's great.

- Some of you knew what we were trying to do.

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Good boy. So we are just getting the tag in place. So every turtle that's been in care at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast, so we always give them a flipper tag before they go out. So I'm just making sure everything lines up. As you can see, it's a pretty big-- pretty big flip that they get, so we want to make sure that it's all good to go, we only have to do it once.

OK. So just covering those eyes there, just to help keep them nice and calm for their journey. Still want to make sure that they can breathe. But that'll help keep Cavill a little bit calm and relaxed before we get to the ocean and set him free.

- [INAUDIBLE]

- [INAUDIBLE]

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Hello. How are you? [LAUGHS]

[CHATTER]

--trolley. We're going to put the trolley in on the left-- sorry-- the right, near the showers. Are you all right to get on one of the trolleys with Holly?

- Yep. And the location?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: I'm thinking we might just go up to the left a little bit. It's not as busy. And there's a few people down in the waves down here.

- Like, to the red flag?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: So [INAUDIBLE]. But yeah, if you're all right to jump on one of the trolleys.

[CHATTER]

- No pressure.

[LAUGHTER]

[CHATTER]

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Just doing Cav's?

- Yeah.

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: So yeah.

- Whatever you need. I could get out of your way.

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yeah. No. All righty. Do you want to get on one side of-- could we get these ones out? We'll get everyone in [INAUDIBLE] position.

[CHATTER]

- Are you gonna, like, undo it and carry him?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Yep, we're going to carry him down a little bit. All right. Are you guys pretty much ready? OK. Ready, guys? All right. Pop 'em down. Be good, kids.

[LAUGHTER]

- Wrong way!

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: No, Jake!

[APPLAUSE]

[CHATTER]

- Thank you for all the training you did [INAUDIBLE] and all the best where you're going. Are you going somewhere exciting?

BRITTANY ATTWOOD: Really emotional. It's so lovely to be able to see these four go home together today. So we just wish them all the best. And hopefully, one day, they'll be out there and they'll be able to get us lots of little babies. I mean, to kept the species going for a number of years to come.