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Uni unveils new boat to help sick turtles

Uni unveils new boat to help sick turtles

ANDREW BACKHOUSE, Townsville Bulletin

IT WILL be called the Scorpion and the boat it is James Cook’s University’s latest tool in the battle to help sick turtles.

The university launched the boat yesterday. It will join its sister ship The Dragon to assist with research into turtle health.

The boats have been called an “ideal platform” for scientists performing the spectacular “rodeo” method of turtle capture, which involves scientists launching themselves into the water and wrangling the animals.

Associate Professor Ellen ArieThe Scorpion will make it easier for researches to help sick turtles.l, head of the research team, said there were several projects assessing the health of turtle populations.

“The Scorpion will be in very high demand and invaluable to the research team for many years,” she said.

“Having the second boat will make research much safer and more efficient, with two research teams able to work together to pursue the turtles.

Dr Ariel said the JCU Turtle Health Research team would use the boat to locate and catch turtles in shallow seagrass areas.

“We’ll be looking at vital data such as size and weight so we can determine the health of the turtles. Our main concern at the moment is the spread of the fibropapillomatosis virus, which is affecting green turtle populations near Magnetic Island,” she said.

The condition involves benign but ultimately debilitating epithelial tumours on the surface of biological tissues.

Dr Ariel said the research boats were deliberately given fierce names.

“They’re both optimised for fast manoeuvrability in shallow waters, so they’re both small, feisty beasts. The names also give a bit of a lift to the spirits of the scientists and hopefully inspire them to keep going in the fight against turtle disease.”

Damien Watson, JCU’s Alumni and Community Development Officer, said JCU’s Turtle Health Research Facility depended on philanthropic funds.

“The ongoing success of the facility and the expansion of its operations has been made possible by the funds it has received from a range of donors over many years. Without such support, essential research into the health of turtles would not have been possible.”

Glencore funded the new boat.
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