Tuesday, October 25, 2011

WWF is helping save the Sea Turtles of the Great Barrier Reef

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and the world's largest reef system. If you live in Australia or ever travel there one thing you must do there is visit the Great Barrier Reef and go scuba diving. Even if you have never been scuba diving before there are companies that will train you on the way out and then take you down accompanied by an instructor.

One of the most remarkable experiences of my life was when scuba diving in this marine wonderland when suddenly a huge turtle, about the same size as me can swimming underneath me. Obviously I was moving to slow and he had to get past! This was a magical experience I wish everyone could experience, however these turtles are at risk. They are sick and starving to death.

Queensland's floods in January this year caused a large run off of chemicals such as pesticides, sediment and large amounts of fresh water into the ocean. This alters the marine environment and the sea grasses that the turtles feed off are dying off. Furthermore a deforming virus that causes large tumorous lesions is affecting the turtles. Add the usual pollution, injuries from boats and poor fishing practices in the area and turtles have one big battle ahead of them. Nearly 1,000 turtles have been stranded, with many dead, between January and mid-September this year. This is a dramatic increase considering 538 were found for the complete 12 months of 2010. Considering six of the seven species of sea turtles in the world are found on the Reef, being the Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, Loggerhead,Flatback and Olive Ridley, this is a vital area to protect.

WWF Australia is currently working hard to help these battlers. Local turtle hospitals are struggling to keep up with the increased numbers of turtles needing help. In some cases sick or injured turtles are simply put back in the water as no one has the resources to help them. WWF is working to supply the hospitals with more medicine and equipment.

WWF is also assisting locals to help find a cure for fibropapilloma virus (FP) after the first few turtles have died from it in recent weeks. The current focus is fitting more turtles with radio transmitters to determine exactly what causes the virus and how it spreads.

In the long term WWF will work towards reducing the 14 million tonnes of mud, pesticides and chemical fertilisers that wash into the Great Barrier Reef every year, eliminate the damaging fishing techniques such as trawl, line and net fisheries, in which thousands of turtles are caught as bycatch as well as work with local traditional owners to protect and monitor the turtles.

In the last few days WWF has formed a partnership with James Cook University who has a reputation for a strong marine veterinary program. James Cook University will assist in caring for the increased number of sick turtles and play a role in the current sea turtle research. This is just one example of how WWF forms mutually beneficial relationships to fulfil their objectives. You can also assist the WWF with their work by donating. For more information on donating visit http://support.wwf.org.au/deadly-turtle-virus-appeal.html

Sea Turtle Fact: Sea turtles lay their eggs in sand. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the young turtles. Cooler sand produces male turtles, while warmer sand produces females.

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