UPDATE: ‘Multiple Turtle Trolleys’ by Wheeleez™
come to the Rescue of Vulnerable Sea Turtles

They’ve been dubbed ‘turtle trollies’.

These ingenious contraptions, made from modified Wheeleez™ Dolly 12 (WZ1-D12) personal watercraft transporters, are helping save dozens of vulnerable sea turtles – not to mention the weary backs of their volunteer rescuers!

Hervey Bay-based non-profit Turtles in Trouble Rescue Inc turned to Beachwheels Australia in 2022 as it struggled to save sick, injured, and stranded sea turtles from death on the Fraser Coast.

The dedicated volunteer rescue group, led by a team of four marine and citizen scientists including Sandy Straits Team Leader Lisa McCudden, was launched in 2021 as turtle rescues skyrocketed. Rescues had risen from an average of 10 a year to 60 in 2021 and 140 last year as a series of catastrophic floods destroyed their main food source, seagrass. This led to ‘soft shell syndrome’ and lethargy in the turtle population, exposing them to boat strikes as the creatures spent more time on the surface.

In 2022, Turtles in Trouble Rescue Inc responded to 600 callouts – successfully rescuing 135 turtles and taking them to facilities such as Australia Zoo, Sea Life and Sea World.

“This year, we’ve done 385 callouts to the end of August,” Lisa said.

“We rescued 100 turtles and travelled 33,500km to take them to the various facilities. Of those 100 we rescued, we released 23 back into the wild and for us as a rescue organisation, they’re wonderful numbers.

“In all, since we started Turtles in Trouble Rescue Inc 18 months ago, we’ve released 64 turtles back into the ocean.”

After enduring countless back-breaking hours rescuing and releasing turtles using tarpaulins and mattresses, Lisa and fellow volunteers decided there had to be a better way and embarked on some research.

“We came across the Wheeleez™ machines and thought ‘wow, we can certainly do something with these’,” she said.

“We contacted Drew Valentine from Beachwheels Australia and talked about what we might be able to do. The rest is history.”

Lisa’s neighbor and fellow turtle rescuer bought the first Wheeleez™ Dolly 12 and donated it to Turtles in Trouble Rescue Inc, and two more devices followed with the help of a grant and donations.

“Because we cover from the Burrum River in the North to Tinnanbar in the South (Queensland, Australia), we now have a Wheeleez™ machine in three strategic locations up and down the Fraser Coast,” she said.

With most stricken turtles weighing from 100-130kgs, Lisa said the Wheeleez™ Dolly 12 devices were proving invaluable in the organisation’s rescue and release efforts.

“For instance, if you were down at Dundowran Beach (at Hervey Bay. Qld), it’s a 3km walk to even get to the turtles and then 3km back,” she said.

“In the old days, when we didn’t have that fantastic Wheeleez™ machine, that rescue would take six or eight hours. Now, that rescue can be done in just a couple of hours.

“Up here in the Sandy Straits, we have mud, and the mud can be quite treacherous. Now, we can have two or three volunteers on these Wheeleez™ machines and have a turtle rescued in anything from 30 minutes to an hour.

“It’s just incredible the difference it’s made to our rescue efforts and our release efforts, for certain.

“It just makes life so much easier transporting the turtles up to the vehicles. They’re just a fantastic machine, a godsend really.

“And we could always do with more. The turtle trolleys are at the top of our wish list when it comes to our fundraising efforts.” Turtles in Trouble Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TurtlesInTroubleRescue/

Wheeleez™ is a community driven business, who will continue to support Turtles in Trouble and many other rescue organisations into the future.

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