The Australia Zoo Rescue Unit along with the Irwin family and two lucky families of auction winners recently set out on Steve Irwin's purpose built research vessel, Croc One, to release Dot the three-flippered sea turtle back into her natural habitat near Old Woman Island off Mudjimba.
After being found stranded on a reef near Scott's Point, Margate, Dot the green sea turtle was brought into the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital for immediate treatment. With rope entangled around her right shoulder, Dot's blood supply had been cut off, causing rot and decay to her front right flipper.
The severity of Dot's injury indicated that the rope – most likely that of a crab pot – had been wrapped around her flipper for around two weeks. Unfortunately, amputation was the only chance of giving this otherwise strong and healthy sea turtle a second chance.
The 74kg beauty was quite literally a handful. The resources required to perform such significant surgery on a large animal like Dot were plentiful, and the month of rehabilitation that followed required patience and commitment. The wildlife hospital team spent day after day diligently working to give Dot the best possible chance of survival, and it all paid off with Dot returning to the wild.
Veterinarian Dr Tim Portas treated Dot the turtle and was thrilled to see her return to her natural home.
'It's patients like Dot that keep me coming back to work each and every day. It's so rewarding to see your hard work come to fruition, especially when the end result means you get to send a beautiful sea turtle home where she belongs," said Tim.
'Dot should have no trouble adapting to life in the wild with only three flippers, we've tracked amputee turtles in the past who have proven to swim considerable distances. Dot's a strong swimmer and I'm optimistic that she'll lead a full life now that she's been released," he added.
Dot seemed strong and lively before she was released, showing signs she was eager to get back to life in the wild. The Irwin family were all smiles as they watched her swim away.
'It's such an amazing feeling being a part of Dot's release after everything she's been through. She's a real fighter and I'm so glad we were able to give her a second chance at life where before, she would have most likely drowned from her injury," said Bindi Irwin.
'It's so easy to prevent injuries like Dot's from occurring. Just by keeping our waterways clean and clear and always properly disposing of fishing ropes and equipment, we can all help to reduce our impact on our beautiful marine wildlife," said Bindi.
In the last month alone, the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital has treated eight turtles. Turtle treatment can cost around $100 - $200 per day with a stay of up to three months or longer. With Australia Zoo covering 100% of administration costs for the wildlife hospital, every donation to Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors goes towards helping the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital continue to save precious lives and create positive outcomes for patients just like Dot. To donate or learn more, go to: www.wildlifewarriors.org.au
Photo credit: Australia Zoo / Ben Beaden