Amanda French and Madison Hellwege with a turtle in the Intensive Care tanks at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney Stevens
Amanda French and Madison Hellwege with a turtle in the Intensive Care tanks at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney Stevens

A day in the life of a Quoin Island turtle rehab volunteer

IT TAKES a special breed of person to dedicate every minute of their day to a cause, but Amanda French and Madison Hellwege wouldn’t have it any other way.

The selfless, compassionate women are just a couple of the army of people who have saved hundreds of reptiles at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre since 2011.

For caretaker Amanda and her family, this five-week stint is to give the regular caretakers a holiday, but that doesn’t mean putting in 100 per cent every day is an option – lives depend on her.

“This is our second stint on the island... previously I lived here for eight months and we looked after the turtle centre,” she said.

“I didn’t have my little boy with me last time, who’s three, and he’s just thrilled to be here, he loves it.”

Amanda French and Maddison Hellwege move a turtle away from the tank heaters at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney Stevens
Amanda French and Maddison Hellwege move a turtle away from the tank heaters at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney Stevens

With 10 predominantly green sea turtles almost constantly there, Amanda and Maddison are on alert 24/7 at the centre, keeping several turtles in intensive care at the same time, alive.

“Getting all the feed sorted, keeping every turtle weighed so they keep on track and monitoring the ICU patients and their health is a typical day,” Amanda said.

“Then co-ordinating with vets and specialist advice to ensure we give them exactly what they need during their treatment on a day-to-day basis.”

Madison made the journey from Adelaide to volunteer, unpaid.

“I had been studying a Bachelor of science in Animal Behaviour in Adelaide and I came up looking for volunteer work and luckily I’ve been able to live here, volunteering, which has been pretty good for me” she said.

“I’ve learned so much, and being able to be here and do the hands-on stuff has been great.

“From learning how to hold the turtle and carry them, to general care and even just learning that they all have their own personalities.

“You really get to see their personalities when you spend so much time with them.”

Every day there is a routine, but different challenges with each animal can pop up.

Madison said some animals were found floating and could not dive, others were hit by boat propellers, some had swallowed fishing line, fishing hooks or plastics.

“We usually start here with the turtles at 7.30am and that involves getting their food ready, cleaning the ICU tanks, preparing their food, feeding the turtles,” she said.

“We spend most of the day ensuring they have got all the food they need to eat and their tanks or the pool are nice and clean so no bacteria can develop.

“Ultimately, I want to finish my studies and get a job caring for animals in a facility something like this.”

Madison Hellwege with a sea turtle in intensive care at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney Stevens
Madison Hellwege with a sea turtle in intensive care at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney Stevens

To see a fighting fit turtle swim into the vast Pacific Ocean is an incredible reward.

“It’s the best feeling in the world, it’s awesome,” Amanda said

“Obviously not all of them make it, but the ones that do make it extremely worthwhile.”

The women had nothing but praise for Gladstone businessman Bob McCosker, who established Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in 2011.

“He’s a rare gem in the wildlife world, ‘cause there are very few people in Australia that do what he’s doing,” Amanda said.

“But he’s been doing it long enough now for it to be sustainable and I take my hat off to him, because he’s done an awesome job.

“I think what Bob’s done, to have this facility here for this region is amazing,” Madison said.

Related stories,

Mum’s passion for volunteering passed down to her kids

‘Disheartening’: Low act against charity

Record-smashing week on Quoin Island



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