Under new reptile licensing regulations WA’s Marine Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre have been forced to stop rescuing turtles in need.
The animal rescue group, which is part of the Rockingham Regional Environment Centre (Naragebup), has taken care of more than 200 turtles during the past two decades, but the centre recently lost its licence due to a lack of volunteers and regulation changes.
Naragebup’s business development manager Barbara Sciesinski says she has been fighting for a new rehabilitation licence from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).
“This has been a work in progress for three years now,” Ms Sciesinski says.
“All turtles that we have had previously before losing the licence were released back into the wild.”
DBCA’s head officer of reptile and amphibian licencing Adrian Coleman says rehabilitation and reptile display licences are currently undergoing changes with regulations, which has caused issues for some organisations.
“We’re currently in the process of changing regulations where if you find an injured fauna you can’t take care of them unless you have the appropriate licences,” Mr Coleman says.
“We are expecting to have the new licence regulations finalised in the next few months, but for now it’s indistinct.”
Ms Sciesinski says it’s difficult for wildlife and environment centres like Naragebup to take in wild mammals and reptiles that are injured and needing rehabilitation.
The centre hopes to have the appropriate licences soon and train their current volunteers to care for the turtles and maintain their aquariums.
“Once we have the licences, hopefully by the end of this year we will need to train volunteers so they can closely monitor the turtles daily,” Ms Sciesinski says.
“This will be done under the guidance of Pauline Whitehead our reptile team leader who has many years’ experience with the turtles.”
The most common species of turtles the centre cared for were the loggerhead turtles, which are threatened with extinction.
Naragebup’s reptile team leader Pauline Whitehead says the loggerhead turtles get washed up onto Rockingham’s coast by heavy tides and are unable to safely return to the ocean for several months.
“[If returned to the ocean] they’ll be taken further down the region’s coastline and will probably die,” Ms Whitehead says.