Dianne is first admission as Cairns Aquarium opens new turtle rehabilitation facility to support marine turtle conservation efforts
June 16th, 2018 is World Sea Turtle Day, a day that recognises and celebrates these amazing, but highly threatened, marine creatures. It is also a fitting day for Cairns Aquarium to launch a new marine turtle rehabilitation facility that provides the final stage of the rehabilitation processes carried out by the dedicated volunteers at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (CTRC), prior to the release of the turtles back into the ocean where they were found.
Consisting of several large holding tanks complete with life support systems and observation windows, a raised viewing platform, interpretive signage, video footage and 3D models the development of the new rehabilitation centre has been a truly collaborative effort. The space, water and ongoing monitoring of the facility is being donated by the Cairns Aquarium, the infrastructure is provided by Australian Government funding secured by the CTRC co-founder Jennie Gilbert and administered by the Reef Trust, while Paul Barnes, Life Support Systems Manager at Cairns Aquarium and the other co-founder of the CTRC volunteered his time and constructed the facility during his annual holidays.
Now operational, the first turtle admission is a sub-adult green sea turtle “Dianne” who was named as a touching tribute to the local Cairns fishermen lost when the “MV Dianne” sank off the Town of Seventeen Seventy in October 2017. Dianne is well on her way to recovering from a shark bite which removed a section of shell and rear right flipper. “She” (at sub-adult age sex is not easily identified) is in her final days of care and will remain at the aquarium until deemed strong and healthy enough to be returned to the ocean. In the meantime she will be the star of the daily Turtle Tours offered at the aquarium with funds being donated to the CTRC.
A facility of this nature, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef which is home to six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles, and where many of the sick and injured turtles are found, is a very positive development. Jennie Gilbert, whose unwavering dedication to the rescue and treatment of marine turtles saw her recently awarded the 2017 Serventy Conservation Award, believes that engaging with other partners dedicated to threatened species conservation and leveraging their unique assets is vital, as it is only through collaboration that each contributing partner’s combined efforts are not only focused, but maximised, for the overall benefit of sea turtle conservation. Jennie said “There are so many ongoing, and emerging, threats to marine turtles that it is a never-ending struggle to stay on top of the numbers of sick or injured turtles being presented for treatment. It is only through support like this from the Australian Government, Cairns Aquarium, Fitzroy Island Resort, Ports North and very passionate people that we are able to do what we do to keep turtle populations alive to thrive”.
Cairns Aquarium founder and CEO Daniel Leipnik who has been a dedicated supporter of the rescue, research and rehabilitation work undertaken by the CTRC said “It is a truly wonderful experience to see healthy marine turtles swimming in their natural environment. The conservation of these iconic, graceful animals is everyone’s business and Cairns Aquarium is proud to be playing a small, but very vital role in ensuring marine turtles can have the very best chance of survival when they return to the ocean.”