A little flatback turtle made his way back to Queensland after washing up on a beach thousands of kilometres from home.
A little flatback turtle made his way back to Queensland after washing up on a beach thousands of kilometres from home.

How a turtle got lost far from home

A little flatback turtle - said to have had a real life Finding Nemo moment - has been returned back to Queensland waters after it was swept up by a current and washed up thousands of kilometres from home.

It is believed the animal fell ill and was swept down from the Queensland coast by the East Australian Current, according to Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre co founder Jennie Gilbert.

The species is native to Queensland and southern Papua New Guinea waters but this flatback turtle was named 'Cronulla' after the Sydney beach where it was found in May.

Ms Gilbert likened the situation to the popular Disney/Pixar movie.

She said it was difficult to tell how long Cronulla had been swept up for but, based on its health, said it could have been several months.

"It literally did a Nemo," Ms Gilbert said.

"They don't travel any further than Bundaberg … lucky for it, it got picked up at Cronulla.

"When it was found, it had barnacles all over its flippers and it was also very underweight; only being about 500 grams."

Cronulla the flatback turtle was released off Green Island near Cairns this week. Picture: Christian Miller via NCA NewsWire
Cronulla the flatback turtle was released off Green Island near Cairns this week. Picture: Christian Miller via NCA NewsWire

It was then taken to Taronga Zoo where it was treated back to full health, weighing about 1.2kg.

"When it was swimming around and eating well they rang and said 'Can you bring this turtle back up there (to Queensland) where it belongs?'" Ms Gilbert told NCA NewsWire.

However, Cronulla the turtle remained at the zoo for a further six months because of the lack of flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After being flown to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, the turtle - now weighing about 1.6kg and spanning 33cm long - was released off Green Island near Cairns this week.

"It was released there because there is really good feeding ground. It's got nice sandy shallow beaches and flatbacks tend to like that kind of area.

"It just went straight out (into the water). It had a look around, took off. It wasn't scared.

"It was very, very cute."

Flatback turtles can grow up to one metre long and weigh up to 90kg.

Turtles don't start breeding until they are between 10 to 30 years, so it is too early to tell if Cronulla is a male or female.

Ms Gilbert said flatbacks were different to other turtles because they did not have scutes or scales.

"They have beautiful blue eyes when they're little and they're just a pretty turtle."

Originally published as How a turtle got lost far from home


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