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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Turtle hospital launched in Townsville

Media release
PG 324/09
24 August 2009

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Sick and injured turtles in North Queensland will now be cared for in a purpose built rehabilitation facility with the opening of a new Turtle Hospital at Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville today.

The Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett officially opened the facility said that the development of the Reef HQ Turtle Hospital was in response to an increasing number of turtles requiring care.

“For many years Reef HQ has been caring for sick and injured turtles on an adhoc basis using a makeshift facility to rehabilitate these animals till they were well and fit enough to be released back into the Marine Park,” Minister Garrett said.

“In recent years the number of turtles requiring treatment has continued to increase which moved the staff at Reef HQ to begin working towards the establishment of a purpose built turtle hospital.

“All their hard work has paid off and today — after 12 months of planning, development and fundraising by Reef HQ and the Townsville community and industry — I am pleased to be opening a dedicated facility which will rehabilitate sick and injured turtles, ensure long term sustainability for the species, and create a centre of excellence for turtle research.

“In establishing the facility Reef HQ staff will also be able to continue their work of educating visitors about what they can do to ensure turtles remain an important part of the Reef for generations to come.

“Reef HQ has been part of the Townsville landscape for over 20 years and it is that community support coupled with the generosity of local sponsors and individuals that has turned the dream of a dedicated turtle hospital into a reality.”

The biggest threats to marine turtles are all associated with human activities including boat strikes, entanglement in fishing gear and ingestion of synthetic material such as plastics. The impact of these threats on turtles has increased over the last few years in line with an increase in the population enjoying the Great Barrier Reef.

The Turtle Hospital is expected to be fully open for visitors by late September 2009. It will provide visitors with an opportunity to see and learn about the plight of marine turtles through educational talks and guided tours of the hospital.

Commonwealth of Australia