Mission Beach community releases ‘Greta’, the green sea turtle

Greta’s rescuers, Andy and Greta Baker, with volunteers of Mission Beach Wildcare, Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, and community members after Greta’s release at Mission Beach on World Turtle Day. Photo: Maria Girgenti

AFTER 11 months of rehabilitation at Mission Beach Wildcare, ‘Greta’, the green sea turtle who is approximately 15 years old and weighs around 25kg, was released back into the ocean at Mission Beach last Sunday on World Turtle Day.  This touching moment was witnessed by hundreds who had gathered on the beach.

Greta’s story unfolded on June 30, 2020 when she was rescued by Greta and Andy Baker from Mooloolaba, who noticed her distressed flapping around their 52ft catamaran as they were moored at Gould Island in the Hinchinbrook region.

The couple managed to get the 20kg turtle into their dinghy late that afternoon and contacted Steve from Mission Beach Wildcare who provided advice on how to care for the turtle until the next day.

The next morning, in challenging weather conditions, Greta was handed over in Cardwell. 

Although the turtle was floating, underweight, and in poor condition with a damaged carapace, there was still a ray of hope.

For the next 11 months, Greta, who was suffering from floating syndrome after ingesting plastic and ocean debris, was slowly nursed back to health by Steve and Sharon McGuinness from Mission Beach Wildcare, under the expert guidance of Jennie Gilbert and her team from the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

Floating syndrome is caused by a build-up of gas in the turtle’s body, which can occur after it has ingested marine debris which blocks its gastrointestinal tract and prevents food from being properly digested.  The body’s unreleased gas keeps the animal afloat, which not only stops it diving for food, but also makes the turtle more vulnerable to predators like sharks or boat traffic in the area.

After a process of rehydration and activating the GI tract once all the debris had passed from her, Greta was able to eat again and began to flourish.

Mission Beach Wildcare, in conjunction with Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, celebrated the emotional release of Greta back to her natural environment.

Greta’s rescuers, who travelled from Townsville to be part of the release, stressed the importance of people picking up and disposing of any plastic debris, so that it does not end up in the natural environment.

The event was hosted and sponsored by Castaways Resort and Spa, who have been a great support since 2019.

For many years, Mission Beach Wildcare has been involved with marine stranding rescues, supporting the DES, and, most importantly, the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. 

Their modest facility has grown in support.  They have previously rescued a number of large turtles and the group held a raffle to raise funds for a larger tank.  

Prep to Year 6 students from all Cassowary Coast schools were invited to take part in a colouring in competition, with entries judged by a panel of seven, and winners in each age group were announced. 

Parley Australia were on hand to provide information on marine debris, beach clean-ups, and education on how to keep the oceans clean.

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