10 Years of Reef HQ Aquarium's Turtle Hospital

August 24th, 2019 marks ten years since Reef HQ Aquarium's Turtle Hospital was officially opened, by the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett. Prior to the opening of the Turtle Hospital in 2009, there were no other facilities in North Queensland. Reef HQ Aquarium saw this as an opportunity to strengthen its commitment to the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.

Six of the world’s seven sea turtle species can be found in the Great Barrier Reef. All are listed as endangered or vulnerable on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Since opening, Reef HQ Aquarium is yet to treat one species: a Leatherback.

Here is a snapshot of 10 Years in the Turtle Hospital: its achievements and patients.

What can you do to help our turtles?

  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Plastic bags look like jellyfish, which are a food source for all species of sea turtles. Take reusable bags when shopping to reduce the chance of plastic bags becoming marine debris and a turtle snack.
  • The drain is only for rain. Turtles are opportunistic feeders, eating anything they come across. Wherever you are, pick up rubbish before it is washed down the drain and ends up in the sea.
  • Go slow for those below. Decrease your boat speed in shallow areas around Magnetic Island and Cleveland Bay where turtles are known to feed on the seagrass beds. Boat strike is the highest cause of fatality for sea turtles in Queensland.
  • Turn off lights at night. Turtle hatchlings are attracted to lights so turn off lights around nesting beaches to ensure hatchlings make it safely to sea.
  • Reel it in. Baited hooks are an attractive food source for turtles. The bait smells like an easy take away dinner, but turtles don’t know there is a hook inside. If you see  a turtle when you’re fishing, it’s best to reel in your line and move to another location.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. The sand temperature around a turtle nest determines the sex of turtle hatchlings. Warmer sand produces more female turtles. Scientists have shown that global warming has already decreased the number of males in turtle populations on the Great Barrier Reef. Here are some simple things you can do every day to reduce carbon emissions which contribute to global warming:
    • Walk, cycle, car pool or take public transport.
    • Turn electrical items off at the power point, use energy efficient LED light bulbs and electrical goods.
  • Report sick or injured marine turtles to 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625) or complete the incident report in the free Eye on the Reef smartphone app.

The turtle hospital operates via donations contributed by visitors, local businesses and community members. The rehabilitation of one turtle can incur a cost of up tp $5,000 therefore ongoing support is a necessity. The Turtle Hospital operates under and promotes the C.A.R.E (Conserve. Act. Rehabilitate. Educate) philosophy playing a key role in raising community awareness in relation to threatened species and encouraging behavioural change that contributes to nature conservation.

Donations to the turtle hospital are always welcome and can be made either online via our Reef HQ Turtle Hospital ‘MyCause’ website,