My name is Una Lem Wong and I am currently finishing my Animal Care Certificate at Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. I am required to do a volunteer placement as requirement of my College Program. As many may know I love being around the water and I have a deep love for animals, so what would be better than to do an International Placement and volunteer to work with Sea Turtles in Australia?
The Great Barrier Reef is located just off the coast of northern Queensland and is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The reef attracts people from all over hoping to see first-hand the gorgeous diversity of marine life. Unfortunately many of these magnificent marine creatures are in trouble, including the Green Sea Turtle, Flatback, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley Sea Turtles.
The sea turtle population is declining, and the causes are many. Some sea turtles suffer from ‘Floaters Syndrome’ - a condition that causes air to be trapped under their shell. This can be the result of boat strikes, when the turtles’ bodies and shells are damaged by the propellers. Others suffer from obstructions in their guts as a result of the ocean rubbish that they eat, mistaking the garbage for food. These problems have been compounded by cyclones that have hit the area and destroyed much of the sea grass beds that are the Green Turtles’ primary feeding grounds. As a result, turtle strandings along the east coast of Queensland have increased drastically. Turtles that would normally be in good condition, from juveniles to adults ready for breeding season, are now found weak and unable to dive.
The organization I will be working with is the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, http://www.cairnsturtlerehab.org.au/, was formed in 2000 by concerned local marine biologists, veterinary health workers and scientists who recognized the need to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles. Working closely with local veterinarians, their facilities have grown to include an on-shore rehabilitation centre, and a pre-release holding area on an island that is a 45 minute ferry ride from the coast. Here they are able to come to the aid of sea turtles year round, addressing their medical problems, nursing them to health and when they are well, returning them once again to the ocean.
I am very excited for this opportunity and as you can imagine it will be quite costly as just the flight to the country itself is very expensive. No donation is too small and everything is very much appreciated. When I finish my program, I will be sharing a report on my experience and let you all know what I learned.