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#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ Oct.24,2022 @acenewsservices
#AceNewsDesk – It has been a grim season in one of Queensland’s best-known regions for sea turtles, as more than 10 times the usual number of sick and dying animals are pulled from the water.
In the Wide Bay region, however, there is hope as improved treatment methods for the fatal soft-shell syndrome allow a bale of once ill-stricken turtles to return fighting fit to the wild.
President of Turtles in Trouble rescue group Ali Hammond said they typically sent about 10 sick turtles from the Hervey Bay, Tin Can Bay, and Great Sandy Strait areas to wildlife care facilities on the Sunshine Coast each year.
“This year, we are up to over 100 turtles already,” she said.
In September alone, Turtles in Trouble responded to about 30 deceased turtles washed up on our shores.
“We certainly haven’t seen numbers like that in recent years.”
Soft-shell syndrome from
Ms Hammond said the spike was likely caused by this year’s prolonged wet weather.
“We had three back-to-back flooding events [and] with that a lot of sediment and pollution washed out into the bay, and that sediment has smothered our seagrass beds,” she said.
“When the seagrass beds have died off, the turtles have essentially been left with nothing to eat.
“So a lot of them are starving … their immune systems become suppressed and they become more susceptible to disease.”Ali Hammond says more than 100 Fraser Coast turtles have received treatment this year.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)none
Soft-shell syndrome was considered prolific among the Wide Bay turtle population where it was first detected in March.
“The soft-shell syndrome is ongoing at this point in time,” Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) ranger Natalie Kastner said.
“But we have discovered with some care from the team at Australia Zoo and Sea World, we are able to treat it.”
A story of Hope
Turtle volunteers, wildlife rangers, and hordes of locals gathered on the Urangan beach last week to watch three adult female green turtles return to the sea, two of which had taken months to recover from soft-shell syndrome.Volunteers believe the declining health of turtles is caused by Queensland’s floods.(ABC Wide Bay: Jake Kearnan)none
One was dubbed “Hope” because it was among the first turtles found with the disease on the Fraser Coast.
“Large areas of her shell were weeping blood, the scutes on the carapace were lifting off and she was exposing raw bone underneath,” Ms Hammond said.
“So we called her Hope because we had hope that we would be able to get her some treatment, and in that hopefully find a cause of this disease, and eventually a cure for it.”The turtles were treated at Australia Zoo then sent to Sea World to build up strength.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)none
Hope was taken to Australia Zoo where experts developed a way to stop the progression of soft-shell disease in its early stages.
“The initial treatment involves antibiotics,” Ms Hammond said.
“They’ll take cultures, work out what bacteria is affecting the shell, and they’ll give them the treatment.”
After that, it was a matter of building up Hope’s strength to return to the wild.
“So allowing it to rebuild its fat and muscle and giving it the space to swim around so it can rebuild its strength,” Ms Hammond said.Two major flood events have wiped out Fraser Coast seagrass beds leaving turtles without food.(ABC Wide Bay: Jake Kearnan)none
Slow and steady wins the race
With a third consecutive La Niña event underway, Ms Hammond is concerned for the turtle population, which is still responding to the effects of this year’s flooding.
“Turtles are reptiles, so they do everything slowly. They get sick slowly and they recover slowly,” she said.
“We usually get call-outs to about 50 or 60 turtles a month, and generally about 20 or 30 of those are healthy, basking turtles.
“Lately we’ve only been seeing about three or four basking turtles a month … so we think the ones that are healthy enough have moved away and are looking for food.”Natalie Kastner says they are working to determine the cause of soft-shell syndrome.(ABC Wide Bay: Lucy Loram)none
Ms Kastner said QPWS was investing to understand more about the crippling soft-shell disease.
“We are putting some funding into research and ongoing investigations into what the actual cause is of soft-shell syndrome,” she said.
“We do know we can treat it, but we want to know what’s causing this.”
To report a sick or injured turtle in Queensland, call the QPWS hotline on 1300 130 372.
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