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A young koala's beach adventure

October 1st 2010
Dog meds saves Dusty the turtle

Dusty the hawkesbill turtle ready to go Yesterday at Magnetic Island’s beautiful Picnic Bay two very lucky patients were released from Townsvilles’ Turtle Hospital at Reef HQ Aquarium. One, a Hawkesbill turtle named Dusty, had been hospitalised for over a year and owes much of his recovery to the experimental use of medicine intended for dogs with liver disease.

Dusty was found at the time of the dust storm which crossed Townsville and Magnetic Island a year ago. He was brought in from Tookalea Beach with a collapsed lung, pneumonia, and liver disease according to Reef HQ’s Director, Mr Fred Nucisora who said Dusty, “had become another member of the Reef HQ and it was sad but exciting for the volunteers and community who’ve followed his progress.”

The turtles' appearance at Picnic Bay drew an
immediate and very curious crowd

Turtle Hospital's Nick Baker carries Dusty towards the beach

Off to the beach

Nick Baker with Dusty out of his box

Hawkesbill turtles are listed as “vulnerable” within the Great Barrier Reef but are “critically endangered” internationally.

According to Fred Nucisora, “There is not a lot known about how to treat turtles but we are helped by our partnership with JCU’s School of Veterinary and Biomedical Science. There is no text book on turtle’s liver disease but we tried dogs meds with a big syringe and it worked.

Dusty was accompanied by another recovered patient, Ollie, a green sea turtle (rated as “threatened” within the Great Barrier Reef) who had been brought to the Turtle Hospital from Ollera Creek north of Townsville in June this year. Ollie was suffering from floating syndrome which stops turtles from diving to catch food.

“We have learned that floating syndrome, without a blockage, can be treated with broad spectrum antibiotics and a high protein diet,” said Fred Nucisora.

Many turtles die from swallowing plastic bags and other plastic items which cause blockages.

Nick with Dusty and JCU Veterinary and Biological
Sciences' Orachun Hayakijkosol with Ollie

Dusty heads for home

Ollie was last in for the big dip

“It makes the work we do something we are proud of and it’s great to see the public support. We would exist without public support.”

Fred explained that the release of the turtles on Magnetic Island was because, “Magnetic Island’s fringing reefs have lots of sponges which turtles eat.”

Fred Nucisora was keen to acknowledge the support of Fantasea Cruising Magnetic who had brought the Turtle Hospital’s vehicle to the Island for free.

Story & photos: George Hirst

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Dog meds saves Dusty the turtle
October 1st 2010
Hi George
What a beautiful story - well-done all of the people who played a part, and here's hoping the two turtles live a long and healthy life thanks to their efforts. Fabulous photos. Keep up the good work, all wild life carers and those at the turtle hospital and thank you from all of us who live and appreciate what you do.

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