Featured News JCU Turtle Health Research opens new nursery for baby turtles

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Wed, 9 May 2018

JCU Turtle Health Research opens new nursery for baby turtles

a baby turtle comes up for air
Photo: Bethany Keats, JCU Media

Baby turtles will have a sunny place to bask as a new section opens at James Cook University’s Turtle Health Research Facility today.

Stage 2 of the Turtle Health Research Facility will see the opening of an outdoor area where the turtles will have more space and time to swim and bask in the sun.

Stage 1 – the main facility, affectionately known as ‘The Caraplace’ – was opened in August 2016 thanks to the generous donations of local trusts and businesses. Now, almost two years later, the addition of the outside nursery is complete.

Associate Professor Ellen Ariel, Head of the research team said the opening of the nursery named ‘The Outer Shell’ is an exciting development for JCU’s turtle research.

“In the indoor ‘Caraplace’ we can house 48 little green sea turtle hatchlings – each in their own tank – where they can freely eat, swim and rest on a sub-surface platform. The facility caters for the needs of the turtles under near natural conditions, and it also enables us to study them close up, which is impossible to do in the wild,” she said.

“The nursery is in an important extension of the facility, as it provides a secure outdoor space where the ectothermic (cold-blooded) residents can enjoy the sun and stretch their flippers.

“The ‘Outer Shell’ will protect hatchlings from predators while allowing them exposure to sunlight via retractable shade sails that will keep them cool in summer and warm in winter,” said Dr Ariel.

She said The Caraplace and Outer Shell extension will help to further global knowledge of these endangered species.

“Sea turtles are iconic animals on the Great Barrier Reef, which is virtually on the doorstep of JCU. JCU is the closest ‘port of call’ to carry out research in this area. With the outdoor extensions we will be able to learn even more about turtles and their immune system.”

Damien Watson, JCU’s Alumni and Community Development Officer said Stage 2 of the Turtle Health Research facility had been made possible via the generosity of a number of donors.

“Philanthropic funds have brought this world-first Turtle Health Research Facility to fruition and the ongoing benchmarking of turtle health has benefits worldwide,” Mr Watson said.

The extension would not have been possible without the continued support of donations from:


James N. Kirby Foundation

The John Villiers Trust

Raymond Rudd MSc

William Richards Trust


Associate Professor Ellen Ariel