This year Shelly Armstrong – our project administrator in Rockhampton – won Ecosure’s employee of the year. Her prize was to travel with General Manager Diane Lanyon on a 3-day turtle tagging expedition out of Bowen with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Gudjuda Land and Sea Country rangers and JCU researchers. We had a turtle of a time!
Before we started the Gudjuda rangers held a traditional welcome to country and smoking ceremony. The we piled into the boats and started our search for turtles. The first half an hour was a bit slow going, but once we played a bit of Bob Marley’s ‘Could you be loved’ across the waves our turtle friends started to show up – apparently, turtles love reggae! Now ‘turtle rodeo’ is a whole other kettle of fish and only the professionals could do that! This involved a JCU researcher standing on the gunwale of the boat while the ranger brought the boat up close to the turtle. Once in the right spot the ‘jumper’ dived in the water to grab the turtle – sounds easy? – it sure wasn’t! We then measured, checked the tag, or re-tagged if the tag was lost, recorded the turtle’s details including their sex and released them with a new name. Ours was called ‘EcoShellDi’. Some turtles got the extra treatment from JCU researchers where they had bloods taken, stomach content collected, and a sample of their shell taken. This was done to record and measure the level of toxic metals in the water and whether this influenced the health of turtles in the bay. We caught over 12 turtles including a couple of loggerheads.
The following day we were taken on the Juru Walk at Plantation Park in Ayr with Uncle Eddie. He introduced us to the use of different fruits, leaves of trees and bushes for medicine and food, fire sticks, spears, baskets and canoes and how traditional owners are still using many of the plants today. We were also lucky enough to view some traditional artefacts the group have collected and stored over time. We had a lovely lunch at the Gudjuda Café, also run by traditional owners, and overlooked by a large sculpture of the cultural totem Gubulla Munda (Carpet Snake).
Finally, we visited Reef HQ aquarium in Townsville where we visited the turtle hospital. This facility is dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick and injured turtles. Donors can sponsor a specific turtle pen and WWF is a contributor to one of these tanks. It was an action packed three days with the bonus of getting to know some amazing people whilst also gaining a deeper understanding of the link between traditional knowledge and western science.
To see the video of EcoShellDi’s release click here https://youtu.be/yCNVnhR4oZY