Two Turtle-y Amazing Weeks Down Under

By Ryan O’Shea, Veterinary Team

On Friday, July 20 2018, I began my journey to Queensland, Australia to work for two weeks at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Center (CTRC).  The facility works with the local governments and boating communities to provide care for sick or injured sea turtles.  Due to their geographic location, CTRC has been able to care for every species of sea turtle except for the Kemp’s Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), a species restricted to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

My time was split between two locations the facility operates from:

  1. An intensive care facility based on the Australian mainland in Cairns, Queensland
  2. A rehabilitation center on Fitzroy Island.

As you can imagine, the intensive care facility houses turtles who are actively receiving care and treatments for diseases and injuries, meanwhile the Fitzroy Island location was designed as a final staging area prior to the turtles being released back to the wild.

There are two memorable cases from the intensive care facility:

Midge, the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas): Midge was being quarantined and treated for fibropapilloma, a condition caused by a turtle herpesvirus. While working with both local veterinarians and hospitals, the CTRC has developed a method of debriding (surgically removing) external growths caused by the virus. After being analyzed, a vaccine is created to treat each turtle. Following treatment, a turtle is kept in quarantine for 24 months and if no growths develop, they are cleared to be released. Midge was in her tenth month at the intensive care center with no regrowth!

Shazza, another Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas): Shazza is recovering from buoyancy problems as well as pollution-based injury.  When an animal like a sea turtle has buoyancy problems, it means that they have the inability to move up and down in the water column. This can be caused by ingestion of pollution, stress, and air ingestion just to name a few. In cases involving stress and air ingestion, time and supportive care resolve the problem and the turtle can be released.  In cases involving the ingestion of pollution (plastic, garbage, etc), the prognosis can be much worse! In Shazza’s case, there didn’t appear to be any foreign material in her stomach, so the team at CTRC is focusing on the time and supportive care approach. Shazza also has another old injury, a plastic was tangled around her for so long, and her shell now has the appearance of an hourglass.

Unfortunately, injuries like Shazza’s are too common- but they don’t have to be. There are simple actions YOU can take to help sea turtles including keeping beaches and waterways free of trash, along with being accountable for all belongings. Many people leave beach chairs and other furniture behind making it difficult for sea turtles to lay their eggs. You can also knock down sand castles and fill in any holes – this helps sea turtles make their way to the ocean once they hatch. Lastly, don’t forget about reducing the amount of plastic you use- plastic bags are a particular threat, since some sea turtles can mistake them for their favorite snack- jellies!

After my two weeks at the turtle rehabilitation center were complete, I spent some time exploring the east coast of Australia.  I was able to SCUBA dive the Great Barrier Reef – despite its continuing decline, the diversity of animals around each reef section was unparalleled to anything on land!  The reef truly is a sight to be seen and I encourage anyone who has an interest in seeing it to go as soon as they can! The beauty of natural environments like the reef should be seen by everyone, and maybe when this happens the world will take greater measures to protect what we are losing.

[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Image_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]
[siteorigin_widget class=”SiteOrigin_Widget_Image_Widget”][/siteorigin_widget]


Please review our booking tips before continuing

Outside Food & Drinks Policy

ZooTampa at Lowry Park offers a variety of delicious food for guests at several restaurants and concession stands throughout, but we understand that guests may need to bring outside food for special dietary needs. Acceptable and prohibited food items are listed below. For the convenience of our guests, there is a picnic area located outside the park near the main parking lot.

 Acceptable Items
  • Bottled water (max 20oz bottle, sealed) one per guest
  • Small snacks for young children
  • Baby food/baby formula
  • Soft-sided insulated bags no larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep (limit one per child)
  • Pre-purchased empty ZooTampa souvenir cups
  • Any food required for medical purposes and medically-indicated nutritional supplements
 Prohibited Items
  • Prepared or packaged food or meals
  • Alcohol
  • Glass or any open containers or water bottles filled with beverages
  • Hard-sided coolers of any size
  • Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep
  • Suitcases and soft-sided bags with wheels larger than 24” long x 15” wide x 18” high

Prohibited Items

For the safety of our animals, guests and employees, the following items are not permitted to be brought into ZooTampa:

  • Any type of explosive or weapon
  • Knives or other sharp objects
  • Pepper spray
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Marijuana
  • Illegal drugs
  • Straws
  • Clothing likely to create a danger or disturbance
  • Any hazardous items or materials

The following items are also prohibited to avoid blocking of walkways and/or trip hazards:

  • Segways
  • Hover boards
  • Two-wheeled scooters
  • Self-balancing electric vehicles
  • Shoes with wheels
  • Drones
  • Hard-sided coolers of any size
  • Soft-sided coolers larger than 8.5” wide x 6” high x 6” deep
  • Suitcases and soft-sided bags with wheels larger than 24” long x 15” wide x 18” high

Please leave any unnecessary articles secured within your vehicle to expedite your entry into the park.

We reserve the right to deny entry to anyone not observing Zoo Rules.

Pay For A Day Tickets

With a new Pay For A Day, Rest of Year Free ticket – for a limited time – you get unlimited admission through December 31, 2023 including access to our seasonal event series. Some blockout dates apply — see below for details. Not valid with any other discounts.

When does my Pay For A Day ticket expire?

For a limited time, new Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free tickets are valid from the day of purchase until 12/31/2023 Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free tickets which were purchased prior to October 1st, 2022 are valid until 12/31/2022.

What are the blockout dates?

3/11/23 – 3/19/23
11/24/23 – 11/26/23
12/26/23 – 12/31/23

Can I purchase a Pay For A Day ticket on a blockout date?

Yes! You can purchase a Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free ticket for first-time use on a listed blockout date and have full access to the park on that day. Blockout dates apply to repeat visitation.

Can I use my Pay For A Day ticket on blockout dates?

If you already have your Pay for a Day, Rest of Year Free ticket and wish to visit during a listed blockout date, please stop by the Zoo’s ticketing windows for alternate options:

  1. During blockout periods, Pay For A Day ticket holders have access to significantly discounted single-day tickets.
  2. For a limited time from the date of purchase, Pay For A Day tickets can be upgraded to a Zoo Membership (with no blockout dates).
I purchased a Pay For A Day ticket online. How do I get my actual ticket?

Bring a copy of your confirmation (or show the confirmation email on your mobile device) to expedite entry into the Zoo. At your convenience during your visit you can stop by the Tours & Guest Services kiosk located just inside the Zoo to print your physical pass. No need to stand in line at the ticket windows. Walk right in!
Still have questions? Email us or call (813) 935-8552 ext. 0.