It’s been a long time coming but Associate Professor Ellen Ariel’s ‘vision’ for an outdoor nursery area for the 1-year-old green turtles has finally been realised. The director of JCU Turtle Health Research has been designing and developing the first-of-its-kind facility to house turtle hatchlings since 2012, after she finished rehabilitating as many Cyclone Yasi-affected turtles as possible.
The core part of the facility, affectionately named ‘The Caraplace’ by one of the postgraduate research students, was opened in August 2016 and houses the turtle hatchlings. The new extension, opened almost 2 years later in May 2018, has followed suit and been aptly named ‘The Outer Shell’ by Bethany Adomanis, who runs the facility.
This outdoor nursery is in an important extension to the facility as it provides a secure outdoor space where the ectothermic residents can enjoy the sun and stretch their flippers, although most of the time they just relax by tucking them behind their carapace (top of their shells). The enclosed area also has retractable sun shades, enabling the turtles to bask without overheating from the strong North Queensland sunshine.
This extension is the result of a lot of hard work from many different people, and would not have been possible without the continued support of donations from Glencore, James N. Kirby Foundation, The John Villiers Trust, Raymond Rudd MSc, and William Richards Trust.
“Philanthropic funds have brought this world first Turtle research facility to fruition and the ongoing benchmarking of turtle health has benefits worldwide,” said Damien Watson, JCU’s Alumni and Community Development Officer.
Dr Ariel added that The Caraplace and Outer Shell will help to further global knowledge of these endangered species by enabling the JCU Turtle Health Research team to learn more about green turtles and how their immune system develops. This outdoor nursery extension is so important for future research on turtle health that it attracted several different news channels as well as the local newspaper team to the Grand Opening.
The young green turtles have now had a few weeks to relax into their new routine and familiarise themselves with the new, large tanks in the Outer Shell and seem to be really enjoying it!
Written by Rebecca Diggins