Turtles

At the Dolphin Discovery Centre we have established the only Marine Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Facility in the Southwest of Western Australia which is licensed by the Parks & Wildlife DBCA. Since the inception of this program in the mid-1990s, our team of Aquarists and Volunteers have successfully rehabilitated and released approximately 200 marine turtles. As all marine species are classified as endangered, it is imperative that we do everything we possibly can to save them and get them back into the oceans where they belong. Turtles rescued along our coastline are predominantly baby Loggerhead Turtles which would have hatched just a few months earlier, but we have also cared for Hawksbill, Flatback and Green Sea Turtles. All marine turtles in Australian waters are protected species at both State and Commonwealth Government levels.

Equally important to the conservation of these species is ongoing research into their long-term survival. Throughout their rehabilitation, the collaboration between the Dolphin Discovery Centre team, Government Departments, Perth Zoo vets, other rehabilitators and turtle researchers results in datasets being compiled on their health, pathology, weekly growth rates and much more. Their recovery process often takes more than six months and this data provides researchers and rehabilitators with vital information on their recovery and development.

When they are ready to be released back into the warm tropical waters of North-Western Australia all turtles are fitted with microchips and tags and many are fitted with satellite tracking devices. Little is known about the first 16 years of a Loggerhead Turtle’s life and, until recently, little has been known about the viability of rescue and rehabilitation. Data provided by the satellite tracking devices has already taught us that most of our rescue turtles do in fact survive and the ocean currents they use to travel. This data and information from turtle tagging has the potential to provide scientists with critical information about their migration patterns, geographical ranges, nesting and breeding periods, clutch sizes, nesting site fidelity and changes in nesting population numbers, while also educating the general public about these endangered reptiles and the ways we can minimise our impact on both them and their environment.

Turtle crawling towards ocean with a tracking device on its back
Turtle crawling towards the ocean
Two turtles on the beach heading towards ocean

How you can help

The Dolphin Discovery Centre would appreciate any assistance you can give in encouraging friends and family in coastal areas to keep an eye out for any stranded turtles that may have been washed ashore following a recent storm. If you find a stranded turtle:

  • Please do NOT return it to the ocean as the cold waters will ultimately kill it as they are unable to regulate their own body temperature.
  • Wrap the animal in a wet towel and transport it in a box or esky to the Dolphin Discovery Centre – 556 Koombana Drive, Bunbury. If you are out of town, please phone 9791 3088 to arrange a pick up.
  • Please take particular care with larger turtles as they may bite and some have sharp spurs on their flippers.

Once we receive the turtle we will arrange a veterinary examination and place the animal in a rescue tank where we will gradually increase the water temperature so that the animal does not go into shock. We will liaise with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (old Department of Parks and Wildlife) and the turtle will be sent on to higher levels of care at the Perth Zoo where necessary or maintained at the Dolphin Discovery Centre until they are restored to health so that they can be released into warmer Northern waters. All sea turtles are endangered species so we would really appreciate your help in rescuing any that become stranded. Please help us fund this project by donating through our ‘Adopt a Turtle’ campaign.

Learn More

Visit our Interpretive Centre today to learn more about turtles and other fascinating marine animals!

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