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Turtle triage gets shell-shocked reptiles back on their feet after storms

By Charmaine Kane and Damien Larkins, Wednesday April 19, 2017 - 15:23 EST
ABC image
Putting the turtle shells back together has been like a jigsaw puzzle for staff at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. - ABC

About 30 freshwater turtles injured in wild weather during March are on the slow road to recovery on the Gold Coast.

The turtles were washed out of rivers and streams and hit by cars or attacked by dogs during storms in the wake of ex-Cyclone Debbie.

They are currently being cared for at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.

Freshwater turtles are common in Queensland waterways, with about 14 species across the state.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary senior vet Michael Pyne said the injured turtles were pushed from their homes by raging torrents at the height of the floods.

"The turtles get washed up onto the shore and they start wandering around," he said.

"They don't know where they are and sadly, they get hit by cars and almost all of [the injuries] are as a result of that."

Staff at the hospital have wired the injured turtles' shells with adhesives to hold them in place while they knitted back together.

Dr Pyne said a turtle's shell was living tissue, like bone, which would heal in time.

"It's a real jigsaw to put the shells back together but in almost all the cases, that shell has protected the internal organs," he said.

For now, he said it was a matter of patience as turtle shells can take months to heal.

"They really are tough little critters," he said.

"They learn to adapt quite well and don't mind a bit of looking after here in the hospital."

Slow and steady is the pace as it could be six months before the turtles fully recover from their injuries.

They will then be released back into the wild once the cooler winter months pass.


© ABC 2017

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