WATCH: Lilly the turtle returns safely to her saltwater home
IT WAS an afternoon bubbling with emotion as Gladstone's recently rehabilitated turtle was released into the wild.
As an entourage of wildlife carers watched, Lilly the Green Turtle said goodbye to the sand and hello to the ocean on the banks of Boyne River yesterday afternoon.
Gladstone and District Wildlife Carers Association president Jodi Jones said she rescued the gentle animal from the shores of Lilly's Beach about two weeks ago.
"It was quite lucky. I got the call from a local at about 10pm that night ... and they're (the stranded turtles) usually not very visible in the dark, so this was lucky," Mrs Jones said.
The wildlife enthusiast said she took one last, longing look at her wine and then made a bee line in her 4WD straight toward the sick creature's location.
"She was only very small and about halfway up the beach. She was obviously a little bit sick and must've gotten stranded as the tide went out," she said.
Two weeks after checking into her room at Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Lilly was deemed healthy enough to return to her salt-water home.
"She was there to get better ... they're (the turtles) just like people, sometimes they just get a bit sick or get the cold or flu," Mrs Jones explained.
"We were very lucky with how fast she recovered though ... Turtles have a slow metabolism so they usually take quite long to recover after an illness.
"So she was quite good."
Confirming just how lucky Lilly was, Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre recruit manager Richard Gilmour said the average length of stay for sick animals is three months.
Among the passionate caretakers responsible for nursing Lilly back to prime health were the Bancals, a couple originally from France.
"When we first got her we cleaned her and checked what sort of state she was in," Ginette Bancal said.
"We could see she was a little bit sick but okay and then we'd feed her each day, making sure she was not losing too much weight."
The Bancals started working at Quoin Island two months ago.
"We love it and enjoy it," Mrs Bancal said.
"For us it is something different and we like the animals. They are so cute and sometimes we have to remind ourselves we are in a hospital," she laughed.
Even newer to the team and witnessing her first ever animal release was volunteer Nicole Davidson.
The young tourist from north Ireland could not wipe the smile off her face as she placed Lilly onto the soft sand and watched her crawl eagerly down to the water's edge.
"It was amazing to witness," she said.
Though slightly more familiar with the sight, Mrs Bancal demonstrated the release of an animal never gets easier.
The woman was visibly upset by Lilly's departure and could be seen wiping tears from her eyes as the small turtle disappeared from view.
"It's always quite emotional ... each release into the wild is special," Mr Gilmour said.
To report a marine stranding (of both living and deceased animals) call the Gladstone and District Wildlife Carers Association on 1300 264 625.