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16 May 2013 10:28:11
A new initiative that aims to increase awareness of the dangers turtles face and encourage human action to help them survive, kicks off at Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium this month.
Turtle Fest, held from 18 May to 2 June, will commemorate World Turtle Day on 23 May and educate visitors to SEA LIFE aquariums across Australia and New Zealand on the turtles' plight.
Since 1991 Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium has run a successful Turtle Rehabilitation Programme. Based at the aquarium's on-site turtle nursing centre - the only one of its kind in New Zealand - the programme has nursed back to health 72 sick and injured turtles, including many endangered species such as the Hawksbill Turtle.
The programme's most recent resident, "G3", was released in the Bay of Islands in February and is being tracked by a satellite tag. An endangered Green Turtle, G3 was found suffering cold shock and a gut impaction from swallowing synthetic rope. Through treatment, including tube feeding paraffin oil to help pass the blockage, he was nursed back to health.
Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium Senior Curator, Craig Thorburn, says, "Thanks to satellite tracking we can see that G3 has chosen to stay in New Zealand waters for now and check out the Bay of Islands. It has always been difficult to track the progress of turtles released into the wild, but through the satellite tracking programme that gives us such accuracy we're now excited to see where he heads next."
Through this initiative Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium is able collect invaluable data on the animal's wellbeing and species behaviour once returned to the wild. Turtle Fest will be located in the aquarium's newly developed Conservation Zone where visitors can track the progress of G3 since he was released into the wild.
With five out of seven marine turtles listed as endangered and 43% of the world's freshwater turtles listed as threatened, Turtle Fest aims to educate visitors on the threats leading to their decline and encourage action for positive change.
Turtles face a gamut of natural threats in the wild, and as a result only one turtle in every 1,000 hatchlings are likely to make it to reproductive age.
"The odds of turtle hatchling survival are low and humans haven't helped with boat strike, plastic pollution, climate change, loss of habitat and poaching placing serious additional pressure on turtles and their habitats," says Thorburn.
As part of Turtle Fest, on 29 May Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium will host an event to raise money for the SEA LIFE Conservation Fund. Dedicated to preserving turtles and their environments, funds raised will go towards research and educational projects that will help protect and restore threatened species and habitats.