By Marus Wilson | Cairns Post
Turtle physiotherapy and a reef pest removal program are part of a new citizen scientist program operating through the Fitzroy Island Resort.
Guests are being encouraged to leave the pool deck, roll up their sleeves and give up some of their holiday to help Turtle Rehabilitation Centre staff with some of their daily duties.
The chores include cutting up squid and other seafood, cleaning tank filters and helping loosen up the stiff flippers of injured turtles.
It’s a paid experience ($199) but the cost hasn’t deterred resort guests from lending a hand.
Zoologist and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre team leader Sera Steves said the contribution of holiday makers and North Queensland volunteers to the program can’t be underestimated.
“We could not function the way we do without volunteers,” Ms Steves said.
“We are completely unfunded and while we do get sponsorship it means a turtle is sponsored.
“So any of that sponsorship money goes directly to that turtle and doesn’t go to any of the staffing of the organisation.”
Ms Steves said the new experience was a win-win exercise as the money raised helped fund the program while there was never a shortage of work for tourists.
Turtle rehabilitation normally takes between six months and three years.
“There’s always something to do and (volunteer help) is always helpful. So it’s an enriching program for both us and them,” Ms Steves said.
The tourist experience also has a snorkelling component where participants are taught how to identify and remove Drupella snails and complete a survey of marine life.
Marine biologist Laura Pederson said the Drupella snails were a pest.
“They are a coral-eating snail and they can do a lot of damage,” she said.
“Studies have shown that the best indicator of healthy reefs are reefs that have these removal practices happening on them.
“So these guys are native to Australia, but due to overfishing and other complications, their predators are no longer around to control their population similar to the crown-of-thorns (starfish).”
Fitzroy Island Resort Master Reef Guide Azri Saparwan came up with the program because the resort was looking at ways it could support the turtle rehabilitation centre and the Reef Restoration Foundation.
“I want tourists to have a real connection,” Mr Saparwan said.
“People will go home and want the reef to thrive.”
Fitzroy Island Resort Chief Executive Officer Glen Macdonald said the program catered for a changing mindset to tourism.
“People want to be involved, they want to see how they can make change,” Mr Macdonald said.