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Turtle Rehabilitation Project – Cairns

Blog Written by Saraya D’Ath
In the industrial area of Cairns there is an already established rehabilitation centre, which was set up by vet; Jennie Gilbert and Marine Biologist; Paul Barnes way back in 2000. It contains 14 tanks and is currently at capacity, the reason being, is that there is a high number of Turtle strandings along the East Coast of Australia due to the recent natural disasters, such as; Cyclone Yasi. Yasi hit Northern Queensland in January of 2011 causing drastic changes in marine-life habitats, the sea grass beds were ripped up therefore leaving no food for the Turtles and as a result of this, beaching themselves due to starvation.
Many of the Turtles also are brought into the Rehab with an illness called ‘floaters disease’ which is an obstruction that occurs in the Turtle’s gut causing air to become trapped between the shell and the body, impacting the animal’s ability to dive down to the sea grass beds in order to eat.

The new project is an extension of the rehab centre on Fitzroy Island, Fitzroy Island resort has donated us a piece of land in order to extend the rehabilitation centre. It used to be an abandoned prawn farm so the area is semi-prepared to hold tanks and piping for the water to be pumped in and out of the site. At the moment we are waiting for a permit to be signed by a government official then we will begin work establishing the extension rehab centre. Our hope is to be able to fit another 20 Turtles out on the Island whilst keeping the 14 tanks running in Cairns.

I’m heading to Cairns in the next few weeks, post another update soon.

15th December 2011(from Cairns, Australia)

Now that we are on Summer holidays, I have had a window of opportunity to fly up to Cairns for a few weeks to help out with the Turtle Rehabilitation Project located in Cairns along the Northern Queensland Coast.
The past few days we have all been very busy at the current rehab centre located in the industrial area of Cairns. Each day we follow out a specific procedure by cleaning out the Turtle tanks, feeding the Turtles and regularly scrubbing the algae growth off the Turtles shell.
A few days ago we received some very exciting news, the permits that were submitted to the Queensland government, which will allow us to build a rehabilitation centre on Fitzroy Island, have been successful.
In the coming days we will go to Fitzroy Island and prepare the site for the establishment of two new tanks out on Fitzroy, it’s going to be a very eventful week. These first steps of the project are very important, because they create the foundation layer for the project and gives a realistic view of the project. This also provides us with an opportunity to share with the rest of the world our passion for the sea turtles and inform everyone on what we are doing!

18th of December 2011(from Cairns, Australia)
The past few days we have had a very special guest come up from Sydney to film an episode for the TV show- Bondi Vet.
Bondi Vet is a famous Australian TV show starring vet; Chris Brown, who stands at 6’5ft and makes every girl squeal. The Bondi Vet crew were up here for 3 days to film an episode on the Turtle Rehab Centre which will be aired on Australian TV in February of 2012.
Whilst Chris was up here we mainly filmed at the rehab centre which included a couple of one on one interviews with Jennie and Paul.
Chris removed Fibropapilloma Tumours off one of our green Turtles called, Nelly at the Marlin Coast Vet Clinic. It was very important that the tumours were removed, because they were effecting her movement through the water as the tumours had grown on her front and back flipper’s. Tumours had also formed around Nelly’s eyes and if these were not removed this could cause long-term blindness.
After the surgery at the clinic we took Angie one of our larger turtles who came into the rehab centre with floater’s disease and Nelly to the hospital to undertake a CT scan. This CT scan was to determine whether Angie still had gas entrapped inside of her which causes her to float on the surface, because 3 months ago when we last did a CT scan of here- there was still obvious signs of gas still trapped inside.
Angie had broken her jaw so we wanted to see the recovery of that. The results were good Angie has no gas entrapped beneath her shell and her jaw is making a steady recovery.
We put Nelly through a CT scan to see if any internal Fibropapilloma Tumours had established which would place pressure on her organs, would have drastically reduced her survival rate. Nelly also brought good news showing no signs of internal tumours.

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