28 April 2012
Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin last week released Matilda the three-flippered green sea turtle back into the wild! You might recognise Matilda from the latest issue of Crikey! magazine. Matilda has spent the last three months in care at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital recovering from surgery to treat her injured front flipper.
"This was such a special day to release a beautiful ancient sea turtle girl back to the wild," Terri said. "At 150kg, Matilda could be close to 100yrs old and critically important to the gene pool."
Matilda was rescued from Beachmere, north of Brisbane, on Australia Day this year after a family found her caught in mangroves at their local beach. Upon closer inspection, they realised Matilda was missing her front left flipper - it had become badly entangled in the rope of a crab pot and torn off, leaving only a festering wound and exposed bone. The Australia Zoo Rescue Unit was called for emergency assistance, and Matilda was transported back to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. Dr Amber untangled the rope from the stump of Matilda's missing flipper, and operated to clean and stitch close the wound.
Matilda has spent the last couple of months recovering in a large turtle rehabilitation pool at Australia Zoo, learning how to dive and swim with her three remaining flippers, before being released back into the ocean last Wednesday.
"I'm proud to be part of Australia Zoo's sea turtle research, which has proved that sea turtles missing a flipper can still thrive in the wild," Bindi said. "The release was truly a moving experience."
Robert also enjoyed the experience, saying "What an awesome morning! We released one of the biggest sea turtles I've ever seen and I got to help release a sea snake too."
The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital last year treated 156 injured marine turtles - an average of three per week. Sadly, turtles are being injured by a number of human recreational activities, including boat strikes, netting and rope entanglements, and ingesting fishing hooks, plastic bags and other rubbish washed into our oceans.
If you come across any injured wildlife, please call our 24-hr emergency hotline 1300 369 652.
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