Carers at a Queensland aquarium waved a happy goodbye this week to Bear, a much-loved green sea turtle who swam to freedom from Mooloolaba Beach.
Bear was rescued in February after being found by a passer-by injured and stranded on the Noosa North Shore. He had a bone infection and was covered in barnacles, which are marine crustaceans that attach to and live on the turtle shell.
Bear spent 116 days recovering at the Sea Life Sunshine Coast’s Turtle Rehabilitation* Centre.
And though his keepers felt a little sad to see him go, releasing a healthy turtle into the wild is a happy event, said Brittany Attwood, a veterinary technician* at Sea Life.
“When we released Bear we were very excited to see him go home to the ocean. We do miss them but we always have lots of happy memories to remember them by,” Ms Attwood said.
Green sea turtles, which live in warm waters around the world, are an endangered species, so saving the life of even one turtle and releasing it back into the wild is a special day.
Though Bear’s carers got to know him well — such as what food he preferred and that he was very cheeky — it was important he didn’t become too used to being in captivity*.
“While a turtle is in rehabilitation we try to interact* as little as possible,” Ms Attwood said. “When a turtle is released back into the ocean we don’t want them to rely on humans for food.
“We often give the turtles items and enrichment* so they remember how to hunt or forage* for food themselves. The one time we may need to interact with a turtle more often is if they need any special medications or treatments.
“Caring for a turtle isn’t quite like having a pet cat or dog. Although we feed them and make sure they have clean tanks to swim in, our main role is to help them get healthy and prepare them for returning home to the wild.
“We love how every turtle is a little different but we need to ensure* they remember how to be a turtle.”
So where to next for Bear?
“Bear will most likely stay swimming around the Indo-Pacific region. Green turtles love to eat seagrass and algae, which is why coral reefs are always a popular location. The Great Barrier Reef is a common area turtles like to visit, which is why it’s so important to protect it.”
Bear is now carrying a tracker, so his former carers and turtle experts around the world will be able to follow where he goes in the future.
Bear’s release coincided* with other celebrations at the aquarium, including World Oceans Day on June 8 and the reopening of the aquarium after coronavirus-related restrictions.
Bear the green sea turtle goes back to the wild
ABOUT GREEN SEA TURTLES
They’re called green sea turtles because they have a layer of green fat under the shell.
Experts can tell them apart from other species of sea turtles because they have a single pair of scales in front of their eyes. Other species have two pairs.
They are the largest species of sea turtle. They grow to about 110-190kg and the shell can grow to about 1m long.
They are listed internationally as endangered. The main threat to their survival is being hunted by humans, for eggs, meat and sometimes for leather made from their skin. Some are accidentally caught in fishing nets.
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, there are about 85,000-90,000 nesting females remaining.
- rehabilitation: help someone get back to normal
- technician: person who has technical skills and training
- captivity: not in the wild
- interact: be involved with
- enrichment: making an experience richer and better
- forage: hunt, particularly for plant food
- ensure: make sure of
- coincided: happened at the same time
- What was wrong with Bear when he was found?
- How will we know were Bear goes?
- Why are they called green sea turtles?
- How big and heavy do they grow?
- Why are sea turtles caught?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Animal Rescues
Considering this aquarium did such an amazing job nursing Bear back to health and releasing him back in the wild, work with a partner and brainstorm the roles of zoos and aquariums in keeping animals safe, happy and to not become an endangered species.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social
Put yourself in Bear’s shoes as he was re-released into the ocean. Draw a picture of Bear and inside his body write all the feelings he may have been feeling as he was released.
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social
I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).
How many nouns can you find in the article?
Can you sort them into places, names and time?
Pick 3 nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.
HAVE YOUR SAY: How would you feel saying goodbye to a wild animal?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.