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Article by Emily Gregory, Sunshine Coast Council

Dot Crane is a local legend of marine turtle conservation work on the Sunshine Coast. Dot first joined as a Sunshine Coast Council TurtleCare volunteer when the program officially began in 2005. Dot has been monitoring her local Wurtulla coastline for marine turtles since 2003, and with her late husband Errol of 2012.

Of all the turtles Dot has encountered on our Sunshine Coast beaches, there is one turtle that she holds close to her heart. A special turtle known as Gandugan.

Gandugan, a Kabi Kabi language word for ‘Giant Crane’ was tagged on Shelly Beach in 2018. It was named in honour of Dot and Errol. Dot recalls the day was ‘so special’.

Gandugan is one of thousands of turtles around the globe that have been tagged (since scientists first started tagging in 1975). This is to help researchers understand more about the various stages of their life cycles.

Dot was honoured to assist in the tagging and releasing process, where Gandugan was later tracked to Swains Reef, off the coast of Mackay. Dot has suspected Gandugan’s presence on our coastline for many seasons. She affectionately nick-named the nesting female, ‘stumpy’, for her partially missing left hind-flipper, giving very distinctive tracks along the sand (as it turns out, we have a few ‘stumpy’ turtles nesting in our cohort). If you ask Dot about the stories of Gandugan on our coastline, she’ll tell you of her interesting experiences finding ‘stumpy’ turtle tracks often in foul weather and unique nesting sites.

This isn’t the first turtle that Dot has had the honour of releasing during her time with TurtleCare. She was invited on Steve Irwin’s, Croc One vessel for the release of two rehabilitated turtles at Mudjimba Island. Dot speaks of this event as a ‘huge honour – way up in her life moments’.

Dot was also present for the tagging of Gaiyadjin on Shelly Beach in 2018. She recalls her first hatchling sighting in 2008, where she recollects her and Errol finding a small hatchling with a damaged flipper in poor weather at eroded dunes. She fittingly named the hatchling her ‘Dottie’ before release.

Over the past 18 years of her commitment to the conservation of her local beach’s sea turtle population, Dot has seen some incredible events. She recalls her memories of:

  • high seas and huge tides during the 2009 floods from tropical cyclone Hamish
  • the Wurtulla oil spills and subsequent beach lock-down
  • eating pies with former MP Peter Garrett at the end of oil celebrations
  • watching the 2011 suspected tsunami weather events from the dunes with Errol, and
  • witnessing the oldest casuarina erode at Wurtulla, that had sheltered many turtle nests, aptly named ‘turtle tree’.

Dot has reported on many turtle tracks, nesting’s, hatchlings, nest digs and relocations, incubated nests and turtle stranding’s and rescues, seasons successes and losses. She is dedicated to conserving the Sunshine Coast's nesting turtles. Dot has received much advice from Dr. Col Limpus throughout her seasons work. She was invited to further her training at Mon Repos in 2008 and again in 2010, attending the 2nd Turtle Symposium in Townsville in 2012.

Dot has had several recognitions to conservation. She received the Garden Clubs Australia environmental award for ‘GREEN’ member of a garden club in Nambour and the Governor of QLD for Kawana. Her fondest would be the pith helmet Errol gifted her to continue her environmental work when he was diagnosed with cancer late 2011.

Dot has an incredible interest in natural flora and fauna, and is a wealth of knowledge of the Wurtulla dunes. She leads early morning guided wildflower walks through Kathleen MacArthur (Currimundi Lake) Conservation Park. Her favourite plant species, ‘carnivorous sundews’ and ‘bladderworts’.

Dot speaks affectionately of her and Errol’s time traveling the local coastline meeting like-minded community joining in on the cause of marine turtle conservation. Also her time doing educational school talks, featuring in newsletters, fundraising for turtle conservation and witnessing the establishment of Sunshine Coast Council's now ever-growing TurtleCare program.

Dot considers herself a ‘thalassophile’ (a person who loves the ocean) and has ‘loved every minute’ of her turtle conservation accomplishments. She still endeavours to read every word written on the news of the worlds turtles to continue her knowledge. Dot holds a diary of documented TurtleCare events and an incredible photo album of her season’s adventures and stories (with a separate photo album dedicated to her turtle, Gandugan). If you ever see Dot on her red mobility scooter along the Wurtulla coasts walkways, make sure to say hello!