Flood-ravaged turtles released in Moreton Bay

December 1, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A University of Queensland biological researcher has led the Moreton Bay release of four turtles that suffered starvation and illness from the January floods.

Dr. Kathy Townsend from UQ's School of usually investigates the impacts of on , but for the better part of this year has found herself in turtle .

Joining forces with Underwater World and Earthwatch Australia, Dr. Townsend helped rehabilitate three and a that were found stranded and critically ill on North Stradbroke Island in August.

Dr. Townsend said there had been an increase in sick turtles and marine life in Moreton Bay this year.

“The Moreton Bay area was heavily impacted by the floods, which caused massive sea grass die back caused by the high sediment load. This year, we've had more animals stranded than in past years,” she said.

Turtle Release A Team Effort from The University of Queensland on Vimeo.

“Three of the turtles we released came in starved and underweight, which is most likely related to the flooding, and not getting enough food and weakening over the winter season.

“One of the turtles had swallowed marine debris, causing a gut impaction and making it ‘float'. This means it can no longer dive for food, it has difficulties getting out of the way of boats and is more likely to be attacked by predators.”

After retrieving the turtles stranded on North Stradbroke, Dr. Townsend and her team at the Moreton Bay Research Station spent 72 hours rehydrating the animals, treating any wounds and removing parasites.

The animals were then transported to Australia Zoo for veterinarian treatment, followed by long-term rehabilitation at Underwater World.

However, the rescue operation has not diminished the importance of Dr. Townsend's research on marine debris and sea turtles at UQ's Moreton Bay Research Station.

“Moreton Bay is feeling the impact of discarded rubbish, with work done by my lab indicating that the cause of death of over 30 percent of stranded sea turtles studied was due to the ingestion of marine debris, with an additional six percent due to entanglement,” she said.

“This is of great concern as is an important feeding ground for these endangered species, with the population estimated at over 20 000 individuals, a surprisingly large number considering it is on the door step of Australia's fastest growing city.

“Our objective is to better understand the risks and impact that marine debris has on marine fauna, using endangered sea turtles as indicator species.”

Dr. Townsend's research has attracted the support of a large network of local community groups, philanthropists and partners, including her key backers Earthwatch Australia and Goldring and Goodman Foundations.

For the past three years, the Earthwatch Australia has provided Dr. Townsend with financial support as well as volunteers to help out with her research projects.

Explore further: Sea turtles begin annual nesting in Fla.

Related Stories

Plastic bags killing Queensland’s turtles

March 13, 2008

A group of University of Queensland researchers are urging Queenslanders to avoid littering the state's marine environment during the upcoming Easter holiday weekend.

Increased population is leading to sick turtles

March 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Queensland researchers have discovered that one of the effects of inceased human population is stress being placed on the environment leading to sick turtles.

Robotic glider to map Moreton Bay impacts

January 20, 2011

A $200,000 CSIRO coastal glider is bound for Queensland to be deployed in Moreton Bay to investigate the impact of the recent flooding on marine ecosystems.

Floods may impact Moreton Bay marine life

September 28, 2011

Dr Chris Roelfsema, from the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management at UQ, is concerned about the impact the 2011 floods may have on seagrass in Moreton Bay.

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.