Washed-up turtles set free

Northern Star

FIVE sea turtles found washed up on local beaches earlier this year were yesterday set free in the Cape Byron Marine Park at Byron Bay.

The three juvenile green turtles and two eight-year-old hawksbill turtles had been in the care of Australian Seabird Rescue's sea turtle hospital at Ballina since being rescued between four and six months ago.

Rochelle Ferris, of Australian Seabird Rescue, said the three juveniles named Ursula, Camille and Penelope, were the remaining survivors of 10 green turtles that were washed up after the big seas and storms at the end of May.

Each had swal- lowed plastic, which made them ill and underweight.

Ms Ferris said turtles often see plastic items as attractive food sources, but when swallowed it blocks their intestines and they slowly died from starvation.

“Since being in care they have each passed multiple pieces of plastic. They're now well and gaining weight,” she said.

The two critically endangered hawksbills - a species once hunted for its meat and tortoiseshell - were also found stranded on local beaches.

The pair, dubbed Eli and Marcia, were suffering from an internal parasite infestation and have since been nursed back to health.

They were released near Julian Rocks, where it is hoped they will take up residence.

“Julian Rocks is within a sanctuary in the Cape Byron Marine Park. There's plenty of food in the area and also other hawksbills. We'd love the turtles to stay,” said Cape Byron Marine Park manager Andrew Page.

Ms Ferris said the three green turtles, who are about 18 months old, were released further out in the park, where they will be at the mercy of the ocean currents for about the next 25 years.

Green turtles and hawksbill turtles are both protected species.


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