Merlie the loggerhead turtle has been fitted with a GPS satellite tag for scientists to monitor its location as it travels the world.
The 50-year-old turtle was officially named and released to the sea last night at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre’s opening celebrations.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the turtle's name was selected from competition entries by researcher Col Limpus.
Ms Enoch said the name was suggested by Charlie Lewis in memory of her mum.
“Her gravely ill mother had always wanted to see baby turtles, so they made a special trip to Mon Repos, however she was too ill to come out onto the beach,” Ms Enoch said.
“The rangers at the centre wanted to make sure that Charlie’s mother would get her wish, so with a heartfelt response, they took extraordinary steps to bring baby turtles to her in the car park.
“It’s stories like these that highlight just how important the Mon Repos Turtle Centre is to the Bundaberg Region, it’s a special place where life-long memories are made.”
In Charlie’s online submission she said the rangers made her mother’s wishes come true, and that when she passed away later that year, she was very happy she finally got to see and touch a baby turtle.
“The department’s threatened species team, including Dr Col Limpus, will be able to keep an eye on Merlie and track when she returns to Mon Repos to nest,” Ms Enoch said.
“What’s special about this turtle, however, was that it was first tagged in in the late 1990s, making her around 50 years old.
“This means she survived prior to turtle exclusion devices when many turtles were drowning in prawn fishing trawler nets, which indicates she was living in a safe habitat.
“The Department are hoping to not only learn about Merlie’s nesting and migration patterns, they are hoping that Merlie will show them where this safe habitat is.”
The new Mon Repos Turtle Centre features a laboratory where scientists will measure and weigh eggs and hatchlings from priority hutches, and an experimental incubation room for turtle eggs.
More information about the Mon Repos Turtle Centre redevelopment and the turtle tours is available here.