Conversation with Mandubarra traditional elder on turtle rehabilitation in North Queensland.
Listen to this conversation with Henry Epong CLICK HERE
Today I'm the guest of the Mandubarra Aboriginal Land and Sea Inc. at their sea turtle rehabilitation centre in Innisfail, North Queensland. I've met up with Henry, Nellie and Steven who are volunteers that help with nesting and hatch-ling turtles, dugong conservation and of course the rehabilitation of sea turtles that have been damaged by boats, sharks, plastic or fishing tackle. 'Sharon' is a green turtle that is at their centre being helped to recovery after being caught by fishermen.
The Mandubarra Aboriginal Land and Sea Inc. has a turtle triage permit to help rehabilitate turtles. Turtles are having a hard time in the waters of North Queensland. Cyclones Larry and Yasi caused devastation to sea grass beds that are the main feeding areas of turtles. The cyclones caused many fatalities and even though Yasi was back in 2011 the sea grass beds are only just recovering locally. Lots of things like to eat turtles as well: sharks, seagulls, crocodiles and humans. However the Mandubarra are encouraging people to not eat them at the moment to try and help the turtle population recover.
The single most dangerous thing to turtles today though is man made – plastic! Plastic bags that turtles eat thinking it food and fishing line that they also swallow or get trapped around their flippers. Ingested plastic contributes to a problem called 'floaters' which is trapped air that stops the animal from descending in pursuit of food. As they are always on the surface their shells also get bleached and turn white.
'Sharon' the turtle being helped at the rehabilitation centre is an example. She had 'floaters' caused by eating plastic that obstructed her gut, she is a green turtle but her shell was bleached white, she also nearly lost a flipper as fishing line was tightly wrapped around it.
Here's 'Sharon' being fed some cut up squid by Henry.
We recorded a short conversation that can be heard by clicking here
What a brilliant job they are doing showing the importance of local ownership and action in the conservation of threatened species for future generations.
It's so important that we learn not to let plastic get into our sea and rivers.
Henry asked me to convey a warm welcome to anyone who wishes to visit them and see the work they are doing. The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre is based at the Violets and Lace Nursery, Coquette Point, just outside Innisfail – and a beautiful spot it is on the estuary of the Johnstone River.
Finally, I think that 'Sharon' has had to get used to her photo being taken, either that or she is looking for more food!