Australian Seabird Rescue general manager Rochelle Ferris explains what’s involved in rescuing sea turtles to (from left) Erica Geitz, Thomasina George, Lucy Cavendish and (back) Daniel Gashchk.
Australian Seabird Rescue general manager Rochelle Ferris explains what’s involved in rescuing sea turtles to (from left) Erica Geitz, Thomasina George, Lucy Cavendish and (back) Daniel Gashchk. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Plastic not fantastic for turtles

AUSTRALIAN Seabird Rescue general manager Rochelle Ferris had some surprises in store when she took people on a tour of the organisation's Ballina headquarters yesterday.

Injured sea turtles were being nursed back to health in eight on-site pools and people viewed the laid-back reptiles up close as they were being fed squid.

Ms Ferris also talked to visitors about seabird and sea turtle conservation.

"A lot of visitors to the area are unaware of the endangered species we have living in the area," Ms Ferris explained.

"If anyone sees nesting turtles that we don't know about, we'd like them to be able to tell us."

Seabird Rescue has saved an unprecedented number of sea turtles in the past six weeks.

"It's the worst we've seen since we started (operating) in '98," Ms Ferris said.

"We usually average 11 (turtle rescues) a month, but this November we had 28 and in December we're still counting but we've had similar numbers."

The main reason turtles have been turning up sick on North Coast shores was due to the countless plastics filling the oceans.

"About 40% of turtles that come to the rescue centre are here because they've ingested plastic," Ms Ferris said.

"And that's because plastic resembles food."

During their stay at the group's Ballina headquarters, each turtle eats about a 1kg of squid a day.

Ms Ferris said sourcing squid for turtles was the organisation's biggest ongoing cost and a challenge for the volunteer-run organisation.

Every morning for the next month Seabird Rescue will conduct tours on which people can donate, but in the meantime, Ms Ferris had some wildlife conservation tips.

"What you can do to help is get to know your backyard, get to know the local wildlife and get to know when there's changes in the local environment."



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