TURTLE Handling



  • Rescuers must employ the correct rescue equipment for the type and condition of the marine reptile and be trained in its use. (e.g. rescuing sea turtles over 20 kilograms requires the use of specialised lifting mats and multiple rescuers).
  • Rescuers must only attempt to rescue marine reptiles when a sufficient number of trained personnel for that species and size are involved. (e.g. for every 20 kilograms of sea turtle weight an extra person will be needed).
  • If a marine reptile is entangled in shark meshing equipment, the Department of Primary Industries Fishers Watch  must be contacted. Under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 it is illegal for anyone to interfere with commercial fishing equipment, and shark meshing equipment falls within this definition.
  • A sea turtle must be picked up by holding the front and back of the carapace. They must not be picked up by the sides of the carapace or by the flippers exception is; Sea turtles with injuries to their carapace and/or plastron must not be lifted using the method listed above. Instead, the turtle must be lifted on a solid object with cushioning such as a stretcher, mat or foam. The carapace must not be touched. This will minimise pain and prevent further injury.
  • When lifting a turtle, place one hand at the top of the carapace behind the neck and the other at the base. Make sure knees are bent and lift with a straight back.



  • Large adult female sea turtles that are mobile must be observed before rescuing to determine if they are nesting females. If the sea turtle is observed nesting:

− all personnel must move away

− the sea turtle must only be approached from behind and never past the head to remain out of the turtle’s line of vision

− lights (except red light) and flash photography must be turned off − NPWS must be contacted (13000 PARKS) to secure the site.



  • The rescue of a sea turtle must only be undertaken by individuals that hold an authority by a wildlife rehabilitation provider licensed as listed in Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017.
  • Wildlife rehabilitation providers must notify NPWS (via Elements database, contacting the local NPWS office during business hours, or calling 13000 PARKS outside business hours) for all sea turtle incidents whether the animal is dead or alive.
  • Rescuers should take steps to protect marine reptiles from additional stressors during rescue, such as onlookers, loud noises, other animals and extremes of temperature.
  • Sea turtles with an injury to their carapace or plastron may require immediate first aid to stabilise the injury prior to transport. (e.g. use a bridge and self-adhesive bandage around the break on the carapace).



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