New guide offers advice on marine animal strandings

WHEN a live turtle is found stranded on the beach, providing a quick response can mean the difference between life and death for the marine animals.

But stranding events are also an opportunity for scientists and conservationists to better understand the overall threats turtles face, as well as the general health of the Great Barrier Reef.

A new Marine Animal Stranding Quick Guide and toolkit launched on Wednesday will enable Queensland's wildlife volunteers to respond faster to strandings, while also providing scientists with the critical data they need to better manage turtles and the reef.

"Following the steps outlined in the quick response guide will not only give turtles a greater chance of survival, but will also help us improve their habitat," WWF-Australia's species conservation project coordinator Christine Hof said.

"The health of turtles is a strong indicator of the health of the reef, and so it's essential that we collect accurate data from each stranding event to feed into broader decisions about marine conservation."  

The quick guide was produced by WWF-Australia, the Sea Turtle Foundation and the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, with input and support of the Queensland Government Friends of Parks small grant program.

The pocket guide provides species identification guidelines, a decision tree, tips on how to safely handle stranded turtles, and how to provide temporary care and first aid to sick and injured marine animals.

Turtle and dugong strandings can occur for a variety of reasons, including loss of feeding grounds, or as a result of becoming entangled in fishing gear, being hit by boats or because of illness.

Sometimes strandings occur for unknown reasons, with animals presenting as healthy and uninjured, and suggesting other sources of stress in the marine environment.

Members of the public are urged to report marine animal strandings to RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL in the event that they discover sea turtles or other marine wildlife stranded on beaches along the Queensland coast.



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