26 September 2023

QPWS program keeps turtles alive

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Queensland Parks and Wildlife (QPWS) rangers and research staff, with the help of volunteers, have been applauded for their success in saving otherwise doomed turtle hatchlings.

Chief Scientific Officer at the Department of Environment and Science, Col Limpus said that with the turtle tours at Mon Repos finishing for another season, the hard work of everyone involved with the hatchlings was noteworthy.

“We have had only a negligible loss of clutches due to erosion or flooding this season for the entire Woongarra Coast,” Dr Limpus said.

“This good news is, in part, due to the success our volunteers had rescuing eggs that had been laid too low on the beach and were at risk of erosion or flooding, and relocating them to safe ground.”

He said that in order to succeed, the relocation of eggs had to be accomplished within two hours of them being laid and with very minimal rotation.

“This has been a major ask for the staff and volunteers working on all the Woongarra Coast beaches this summer,” Dr Limpus said.

“Turtle hatchlings will continue to emerge for some months to come, but we know that, so far, approximately 1,200 clutches have been laid along the coast.”

He said weather conditions had also improved this season, leading to better hatchling success.

“We were fortunate this year that there were no major cyclones in the Coral Sea to create a storm surge on our coastline and, as a result, we have had some 70 per cent of clutches laid that have hatched,” Dr Limpus said.

“Heatwave conditions have prevailed over the past four years which has resulted in higher egg and hatchling mortality, but this summer we experienced more overcast days and the scattered rain through most of the season kept beach sand temperatures down.”

He said however, there was also some disappointing news with early numbers indicating a continued decline in nesting turtles.

“Approximately 365 loggerhead turtles were recorded nesting along the Woongarra Coast along with nine flatback turtles and one green turtle for the 2020-21 season,” Dr Limpus said.

“Preliminary data supports the continued decline of turtle nesting numbers.

“The reasons for the decline in the loggerhead nesting population are not clear at present,” he said.

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