Babs the turtle released after miraculous recovery

Brett Lakey and Aaron Sprowl get ready to release a juvenile flatback that was rescued sick and injured from waters near Sydney
Brett Lakey and Aaron Sprowl get ready to release a juvenile flatback that was rescued sick and injured from waters near Sydney Craig Warhurst

A FLATBACK turtle found near death and more than 1100km from home has been released back into the wild after a miraculous recovery.

Affectionately known as Babs, the female turtle was returned to the sea this morning from the Lady Musgrave Experience catamaran the Main Event.

Babs has spent the past few weeks completing her recovery and preparing for release at Sea Life Mooloolaba's state-of-the-art Turtle Hospital on the Sunshine Coast after several months of intensive rehabilitation and recovery at Sea Life's sister sanctuary in Manly, Sydney.

Rescuers found the young flatback turtle seriously injured and stranded in the sands of Newcastle's Stockton Beach in April.

Not only was Babs being attacked by birds, she was also covered in barnacles and had a deep laceration to her front right flipper.

Brett Lakey with Babs the turtle.
Brett Lakey with Babs the turtle. Craig Warhurst

She was taken to Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, where it was later discovered that she had swallowed plastic.

Sea Life Mooloolaba's general curator Aaron Sprowl said Babs made a full recovery and was now fit to return to the wild.

"Most of her rehabilitation occurred under the first-class care of the amazing team at our sister sanctuary in Manly,” Mr Sprowl said.

"When she was well enough, Babs was flown to Queensland to join us here at Sea Life Mooloolaba's Turtle Hospital for the final phase of her recovery and to prepare for release back to the ocean.

"It's the ideal scenario following such serious injury, particularly given that this species is listed as vulnerable in Australia.”

Brett Lakey, owner of the Lady Musgrave Experience said it was great to help out SEA Life and transport Babs home.

"It is something we do just to help out,” Mr Lakey said.

Babs a juvenile flatback turtle was rescued sick and injured from waters off Sydney
Babs a juvenile flatback turtle was rescued sick and injured from waters off Sydney Craig Warhurst

"It's a buzz for the passengers too,” he said.

Named for their relatively flat, smooth shells, flatback turtles nest only on northern Australian beaches, but travel as far as the Papua New Guinea coast and Indonesian archipelago to feed.

Sea Life Mooloolaba was able to assist Babs in making her final journey home with the help of the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, and tour boat operator The Lady Musgrave Experience.

Mr Sprowl said while it was wonderful to see Babs return to full health and released, not all turtles were so lucky.

"Research shows that over half the sea turtles on our planet have ingested plastic with many animals mistaking plastic for food, such as jellyfish,” he said.

"Sea Life Mooloolaba has cared for more than 1000 sick or injured turtles over the past 25 years and we can't stress enough the importance of putting rubbish in the bin and keeping our waterways clean.”

In keeping with its Breed, Rescue and Protect philosophy, Sea Life Mooloolaba opened its dedicated Turtle Hospital in 2014, with increased capacity to care for sick or injured turtles as well as implement turtle health checks.

If you see a turtle that is sick, injured or in distress, please contact the RSPCA's Marine Animal Stranding Hotline on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625) or The Department of Environment and Resource Management on 1-300-264-625.

Topics:  environment, lady musgrave experience, turtles

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