Dr Kelly O’Sullivan (left), from Phillip Island Nature Reserve, delivers the loggerhead turtle to ASR acting general manager Keith Williams and volunteer Michael Hugh (right).
Dr Kelly O’Sullivan (left), from Phillip Island Nature Reserve, delivers the loggerhead turtle to ASR acting general manager Keith Williams and volunteer Michael Hugh (right). Doug Eaton

Rare turtle rescued off Victoria

A FLIGHT which arrived at Ballina airport yesterday afternoon had one very special passenger – a young loggerhead turtle.

The turtle, nicknamed ‘Trutel’, had washed up on a beach at Phillip Island in Victoria.

He was well out of his comfort zone – the turtles are usually only found in tropical and sub-tropical waters.

So staff from the Phillip Island Nature Reserve cared for the turtle until he was well enough to travel to Ballina. He will now be looked after by Australian Seabird Rescue (ASR) until he can be released into the ocean.

ASR acting general manager, Keith Williams, said loggerheads of Trutel’s age and size were almost never seen by humans.

He is eight-years-old and weighs about 4kg.

“At this age the loggerhead turtle lives out in the open ocean, well away from land,” he said.

“We see loggerhead hatchlings and adults on the North Coast, but we have never seen a loggerhead turtle this size in the 10 years we have been saving sea turtles.

“Turtle researchers all over Australia are going to be interested in this little fellow.

“Some researchers have been working with loggerheads for more than 20 years and they’ve never seen one at this stage of its life cycle.

“This one was full of parasites and he was floating. He wasn’t well. If he hadn’t been found, he would have died.”

Phillip Island Nature Reserve staff normally care for penguins, so learning about the turtle has been a daily challenge.

Thankfully, phone and email support has been provided by ASR.

Phillip Island’s Dr Kelly O’Sullivan also travelled to Ballina to help Trutel settle in to his new home.

“We have learnt a lot about turtles over the past six weeks,” she said.

Mr Williams said Trutel was already part of the ASR family.

“It feels like we’ve been working with him for six weeks, so we’re really excited to finally meet him,” he said.

“We’ve got a couple of school groups coming in this week and they will be the first to see our loggerhead.”

Trutel will be cared for at ASR’s Ballina headquarters until he is healthy and weighs about 5kg.

He will then be taken out to the ocean to be released.



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