Ballina Seabird Rescue Centre carer Michael Heugh checks on the progress of a 80kg century-old green turtle rescued last Saturday with a deep gash to its shell.
Ballina Seabird Rescue Centre carer Michael Heugh checks on the progress of a 80kg century-old green turtle rescued last Saturday with a deep gash to its shell. Doug Eaton / The Northern Star

Century-old turtle victim of boat propeller

MICHAEL HEUGH, of Wardell, never thought he would ever touch, yet alone care for, a century-old turtle.

However, working at Ballina's Seabird Rescue Centre, Mr Heugh got his chance when the green turtle was picked up last Saturday at Sandon River, near Brooms Head, and taken to the centre for treatment.

“This big fella is a real eye-opener,” Mr Heugh said.

The turtle, named Sheldon by his rescuers, has suffered a 35cm long and 10cm wide gash across his shell.

Centre caretaker and carer Keith Williams said Sheldon had a 50/50 chance of survival.

“He is pretty sick,” he said.

“It looks like he has been hit by a boat, leaving him with a large hole in his shell.

“The impact has also cracked the shell.”

Mr Williams said Sheldon may also be sick, explaining why he was close enough to shore to be hit by the boat.

“We may have to fibreglass his shell, but we are getting advice from other turtle rescue centres around the world,” he said.

However, Sheldon is not the only turtle rescued this season by volunteers at Seabird Rescue.

In fact, 15 turtles in total, a record number, are in care at the centre at the moment.

Mr Williams said coastal currents may be to blame for washing the turtles ashore.

“We also think there is an increased awareness in people not to push a stranded turtle back into the sea, but to call us,” he said.

The remaining 14 turtles were 15 to 20 years old with shell lengths of about 40cm, he said.

“Five of the turtles are hawksbill turtles, which are critically endangered,” he said. “This is the first time we've had this many in care, with many having float syndrome - gas build up under their shell.”



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