In late March, we reported a Green Turtle had been found stranded at Middleton Beach and was recuperating at Adelaide Zoo after a rescue undertaken by the Department for Environment and Water, the Wildlife Welfare Organisation SA Inc. (WWO), Dr Anne Fowler from Adelaide Bird and Exotics vet clinic, RSPCA SA and Zoos SA.
Named Paddy, as she was found the day before St Patrick’s Day on 16 March, the female turtle, estimated to be approximately 35-years-old, spent two weeks at Adelaide Zoo resting and recuperating and undergoing examination from the veterinarians to ensure she was in good health.
With no sign of injury or long-term illness, the teams involved decided it was time to release Paddy, choosing a release site of Rapid Bay for its protected nature, currents and warmer waters.
Erring on the side of caution, Paddy’s guardian angel, in the shape of Murray Bridge Central Olympic Motel owner and volunteer turtle expert, Aub Strydom, got in touch with the zoo and offered to assist with his expertise and a tracking device.
Aub visited Paddy at Adelaide Zoo on the 31 March, the day of her release and secured a tracking device to her carapace. Aub also added a large red ‘P’ to her shell so that anyone who encountered her on the waterways could easily identify her P Plate without having to get too close or interfere with her swim.
Animal Hospital Manager, Di Hakof from Adelaide Zoo who was at the release site, said: “Paddy swam straight away, she followed the shore line and cleared fishing lines.
“We kept following her up the beach, and then she got her bearings and started swimming out.
“It was amazing to see and to be there and to share it with some locals. It was one of the best collaboration efforts in terms of the cooperation between all the stakeholders. Everyone did everything they were asked – and more!
“We all wanted to make sure we did it right and did the best thing by the Green Turtle. The best thing was to get a tracking device on her, which could show us where she travels and also what is going on in South Australia in terms of the population of the species.
“We hope that we can satellite track Paddy and find out where her home is (East/West or in SA) and check she’s ok. As a 35-year-old female, she’s coming up to or has just completed her first laying and breeding season so it will be important for us to be able to watch her movements,” finished Di.
Excitingly, over the last few weeks Paddy has been closely monitored by the teams involved and has been followed swimming in the Gulf of St Vincent. Her movements since release have seen her journey past Port Wakefield before deciding to head back towards Adelaide earlier this week.
Members of the public who wish to monitor Paddy’s adventures can follow her here or, adopt her here
If you spot a turtle in the wild, please remember to keep your distance and make sure to report it to DEW, especially if it has a big red P on its back!
National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Regional Coordinator of Marine Parks Jon Emmett said green sea turtles and leatherback turtles could sometimes be spotted in South Australian waters.
“Generally we don’t get green sea turtles here very often, they are thought to be transient, and live in warmer waters in WA or further up the eastern coast,” he said.
“We do have sightings almost yearly, but we don’t know how many are in SA waters. So having a tracker on Paddy may help us to fill in these gaps in our knowledge.
“It’s been fantastic to have NPWS be a part of this experience and to have strengthened our relationships through cooperating to help return Paddy to the ocean.
“Being able to be there in person, and help with her release at Rapid Bay was wonderful.”
“We feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to play a role in Paddy’s recovery, transporting her between various sites and ultimately to her release site,” said RSPCA SA rescue officer Soraya Megaw.
“Carrying her to the water’s edge, then watching her swim away and having one of our Animal Ambulance volunteers, Richard Tee, film her with his drone, was priceless – I’ll never forget that day.”
Aub Strydom, who has involved in turtle monitoring and nest protection on K’gari-Fraser Island since 1993, as a Volunteer, and as a QPWS Park Ranger has specialised in the Satellite Tracking of 95 turtles, including Paddy.
“When migrating most turtles move steadily and directly from their foraging area to their courting, then their nesting area, and afterwards back to their foraging home range – which can vary from less than a hundred to a few thousand kilometres apart. However, a few can take surprising detours, or pause somewhere along the way home. A few tracked turtles have surprised us by nesting on 2 or 3 different beaches up to 200km apart,” said Aub.
“Foraging turtles generally stay in an area with a radius of 5 to 10 kilometres, but some will make excursions to other nearby areas for short periods,” finished Aub.
Justin Biddle, Wildlife Centre Team Leader of Wildlife Welfare Organisation (WWO) said: “Having cared for over 30 freshwater turtles that have been impacted by the recent flooding event of the Murray Mouth it was an amazing opportunity to be able to help Paddy the green sea turtle.
“Seeing Paddy get released and have all the organisations come together and work as team to ensure the best outcome for this animal was encouraging. As Wildlife Welfare Org is a multi-species rescue organisation we hope that we can endevour to continue this trend of working together with more specialised groups within the South Australian wildlife rescue sector, with the hope in the future to secure better outcomes for our unique animals.”
According to the IUCN Red List, Green Turtles are endangered in the wild with a decreasing population. Threats to Green Turtles include:
- Harvesting of eggs from nesting beaches
- Bycatch in marine fisheries
- Habitat degradation at nesting sites