Heff is the largest turtle at Charles Darwin University’s rehabilitation centre. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
Although Heff — the largest turtle at Darwin’s only turtle rehabilitation facility — has been in recovery for three years, he is still not ready to return to the wild.
But he will be given all the time he needs, at the freshly revamped and expanded centre at Charles Darwin University.
Michael Guinea, the president of sea turtle research and conservation group AusTurtle, reopened the facility today.
Michael Guinea, the president of AusTurtle, reopened the rehabilitation facility today. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
He explained it was a place for turtles to finish their rehabilitation before being released back into the sea, no matter how long that took.
Darwin vet nurse Geraldine Reid said there had been a jump in the number of injured turtles due to plastic consumption, and a new facility like the one in Darwin could not have come at a better time.
It can treat around 20 turtles in individual tanks pumped with high-quality water for as long as required.
Two baby turtles recover at the Charles Darwin University facility. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
When a turtle is injured it is usually taken to a veterinarian who can perform any emergency treatment, but because of their slow-healing biology, they need a few months to recover enough to return to the wild.
That is where the rehabilitation centre comes in.
“Time is the biggest factor, so what we are trying to do is provide them with the time, expert care, good water quality, uncrowded facilities so they can be released back to where they came from,” Mr Guinea said.
The upgraded turtle rehabilitation facility reopened at Charles Darwin University today. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
Others have already shown improvements after being in treatment for 24 hours.
“There are a number of natural causes of turtles becoming sick, some its diet, you hear of things such as massive floods in Queensland upsetting seagrass beds which causes them to lose weight,” Mr Guinea said.
“Then you also have boat collisions then the shell can be repaired and there is a very long grow-out period for those turtles.”
The rehabilitation centre is the only service available to injured turtles found from Cairns to Exmouth.