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Beach clean up turns turtle rescue as students find first hatchling of the year at Binningup Beach

Craig DuncanBunbury Herald
Axel Grossmann with students from Parkfield Primary School who rescued "Squirtle".
Camera IconAxel Grossmann with students from Parkfield Primary School who rescued "Squirtle". Credit: Axel Grossmann - Dolphin Discovery Centre

There was much more than plastic bottles and fishing lines washed up on the beach when students from Parkfield Primary School arrived for a clean up at Binningup Beach earlier this month.

Three students were ecstatic to find a hatchling loggerhead turtle washed up with the recent storms, taking care to deliver the tiny turtle safely to the Dolphin Discovery Centre.

They decided to name the turtle, which had only three flippers and weighed 53g, Squirtle after the iconic Pokemon.

Squirtle is tiny, but was active and energetic when given fresh water, Mr Grossmann said.
Camera IconSquirtle is tiny, but was active and energetic when given fresh water, Mr Grossmann said. Credit: Axel Grossmann - Dolphin Discovery Centre

He said Squirtle was likely to be the smallest ever found in the South West, with the arrival coming weeks ahead of the usual influx.

“We have had hundreds of turtles over the 30 years we’ve been rehabilitating, and (Squirtle) is really the smallest we can get,” he said.

“Given the circumstances, they’re in a very good condition being very lively, reacting with their eyes open.”

Mr Grossmann noted for a hatchling turtle, the first few years of their life they faced constant dangers.

With less than half of all hatchlings likely to make it to the ocean, and fewer still likely to make it into the deep sea, Squirtle has already been through an incredible journey.

Mr Grossmann said the grim reality was only one in 1000 hatchling turtles were likely to ever reach maturity, though some conservationists argue this ratio is now one in 10,000.

“But by rehabilitating it now, we are going to give it an 80 per cent survival rate to get to adulthood,” he said,

“If we can release 20 and out of those 20, 15 make it to adulthood, that’s 15 more females nesting in the future. That’s why the individuals who make it here count so much.”

Once in care, “Squirtle’s” survival chances are significantly higher compared to most other hatchling turtles.
Camera IconOnce in care, “Squirtle’s” survival chances are significantly higher compared to most other hatchling turtles. Credit: Axel Grossmann - Dolphin Discovery Centre

Parkfield Primary School teacher Mitch Jefferys said the students who found Squirtle were “unreal” with their care and compassion.

“The kids were really proud and excited to have made a difference in this turtle’s life,” he said.

“I was rapt to be a part of it, and am so proud of how well the kids handled it all.”

Mr Jefferys said students across the primary school were eager to return to the beach in the hope of finding a second turtle in need of rescue.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to top this at the next school trip,” he said.

Mr Grossmann encouraged the public to take to the beaches whenever they have the chance to look for more hatchlings after a second hatchling was found on a beach north of Perth and taken to AQWA on the same day Squirtle came into care.

“Especially this time of the year, after the winter storms hit, that’s when you can see more seagrass lying around and hatchling turtles can get caught in the seagrass and end up on the beach,” he said.

Mr Grossmann said the centre had a storm chasers program which involves people taking to the beach after storms to collect rubbish or help distressed animals.

He said anyone finding wildlife in distress should call the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.

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