Hawksbill Turtle 'Billy Bob' has been rescued and released back onto Heron Island.
Hawksbill Turtle 'Billy Bob' has been rescued and released back onto Heron Island. Contributed

Billy Bob given a second chance at life

A CRITICALLY endangered turtle has been given a second chance at life.

Rescued 80km off the coast of Gladstone, hawksbill sea turtle "Billy Bob” will be released at Heron Island this morning.

She was picked up by the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on January 31 after being found floating in poor condition. She weighed only 2.5kg and had sea lice and other parasites under the scutes of her carapace.

After just seven days of intensive treatment, her floating subsided and she was soon moved to the main pool with the other turtles to gain strength and reach her goal weight of 3.2kg. QITRC worked closely with the Heron Island resort - which provided free catamaran transport of the turtle - and the Department of Environment and Science, which cared for her overnight.

Based on Billy Bob's size, QITRC manager Richard Gilmour suspects she must be in her teenage years.

"She was always very inquisitive and alert, enjoying the diet of squid and pilchards at the rehab centre from day one,” he said.

Worldwide there are between 20,000 to 23,000 hawksbill sea turtles left.

Mr Gilmour is uncertain of how many of those originate from Heron Island.

He said when hawksbill sea turtles got sick they floated to the ocean surface, putting them at risk.

"That's when they become boat-strike victims and victims of fishermen,” he said.

"They get tangled in nets left behind, they get tangled up around their flippers.”

Mr Gilmour has high hopes for Billy Bob to live a long and healthy life.

"Billy is fighting right now - she's got a fantastic chance of survival,” he said.

"Releasing her back where we found her allows her back on a reef and to have a reef diet. Hopefully she can grow to a breeding age.”