WOODSON THE RESCUE TURTLE AND HIS 3 ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA FRIENDS
When Woodson the green sea turtle was first found washed up on a beach in Bowen two and a half years ago, he only had one eye and was starving, believed to have been living on a diet of rubbish.
Weighing only 6.95kg, a lot of love and care would be needed to ensure Woodson could one day return to the wild.
Luckily, he was taken in by the amazing team at Advanced Ecotourism Certified Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (CTRC) on Fitzroy Island, who set about nursing him back to health.
It soon became apparent that Woodson’s appetite was not permanently affected by his ordeal, as the little guy developed a taste for prawns, squid and even broccoli – now that’s what we call a health-conscious rescue turtle!
Once Woodson was settled into his new home, volunteers at the rescue centre discovered his cheeky personality. He became best friends with his tank neighbour Rinnie – another juvenile green sea turtle - and the two of them made sure they were in full “show off” mode when visitors were around, popping their heads above water regularly to ensure they were kept abreast of what was happening around them.
As the CTRC is a voluntary-based, non-profit organisation, it relies on donations from other turtle-lovers to keep its rehabilitation programs running.
Fortunately, another member of the Ecotourism Australia family, Nature Tourism Certified BIG4 Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park, stepped up to the mark and started sponsoring Woodson. Knowing their guests would also love him, they ensured that a stay in any one of their eco cabins or in their lodge also went towards supporting their new friend Woodson.
“BIG4 Atherton has been involved with the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Fitzroy Island for a few years now, says owner/operator Patrice Fletcher.
“Woody was the first turtle we sponsored, he was a juvenile hawksbill turtle, released on Moore Reef just off Cairns in 2016. We loved the involvement with the [Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation] Centre and witnessing the amazing work of the volunteers, so it was with great excitement that not long after Woody’s release, along came Woodson, needing a lot of TLC and recuperation (and hand-peeled prawns by the volunteers at the centre!).
“We believe it is important to show your guests that you do care for your environment and importantly to us it made our eco accreditation a reality. [That’s why] for each stay in one of our eco cabins, we promote sponsorship of the turtles and our guests love it.
“Whilst we may be an ECO accredited park located on the Atherton Tablelands, we firmly believe that what we do on the land does affect the reef and the many creatures that call the reef home.
“We are Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef and will continue to support the work of the volunteers at the turtle centre - it’s well worth a visit!”
The farewell from CTRC was a bittersweet one – Woodson had captured the hearts of the volunteers at CTRC and the team at BIG4 Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park and he would be dearly missed. But of course, his release into the wild – made possible by yet another Ecotourism Australia certified operator, Sunlover Reef Cruises – was celebrated (see video below).
A GPS tracker has now revealed that Woodson decided his release into the wild was a good excuse for a holiday – after all, now that he was strong and happy, there was a whole ocean to discover!
Not letting his small size stop him, Woodson swam all the way to Magnetic Island to enjoy a few days enjoying the sun rays (or prawns?) there before making his way back to his hometown of Bowen.
Farewell, Woodson and all the best – and a huge shout out to the incredible people at Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, BIG4 Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park and Sunlover Reef Cruises for putting ecotourism into action and helping to protect the natural treasures of our beautiful planet!
[Cover photo: BIG4 Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park]