Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

December 22nd 2008
Another threat to turtles

Ranger Brian Johnson shows how close the nest was to the fire It sounds like a typical Magnetic Island beach party. Some friends gather at a secluded spot at the mouth of a creek. They've brought some drinks and drag a log up and build a fire and set back to chill out for the evening. It's a laid back party but it is also likely that the drinkers are underage, by morning there's an unsightly mess of bottles and other rubbish, the fire has burned down the log but, 30 to 50cms down in the sand, a clutch of turtle eggs from a vulnerable species, the sort from which perhaps one in a thousand will survive to adulthood, have just been cooked.

This is the scenario, which might have occurred over the weekend before last, on the beach at the creek mouth near the former helipad at Nelly Bay. Even if it didn't cause the eggs to be lost the threat is real.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Magnetic Island Rangers were alerted to a still-warm, burnt-out, log very close to the nest a turtle had, a few days previously, laid eggs into.

The location has for years been a popular spot for night-time teenage parties.

Rubbish is left around the site

Ranger in Charge, Patrick Centurino, cannot be sure at this stage whether this particular fire has had any impact on the eggs which hatch six or seven weeks later. But the sand, after the female has dug the nest, will be less compacted and more susceptible to activities on the surface. "It is possible the fire could affect them" he said, adding, "With a party where people are milling around on the sand there is a risk of increased pressure on the egg chamber," said Patrick.

Patrick added that at another of the nesting sites, this one on the beach in front of X-base backpackers, a turtle was seen digging a nest which was found to contain a broken bottle. Fortunately the turtle was not injured.

"Turtles are pretty tough but they may be put off nesting here," says Patrick. "Some say that only one in a thousand green or flat back turtles' (the species which nest on Magnetic) eggs survive to maturity. We are trying to reduce the risk to the environment here and some of these measures might look negligible but it is the, this-plus-this-plus-this, the cumulative impact, we are trying to reduce."

There are presently three nests on Nelly Bay Beach and, as many resident's also use the beach as an illegal dogs-off-leash area, the risks to turtles, at this time of year, is even greater. "People need to control their dogs especially if they start to dig a hole," said Patrick.

"Driving on beaches, removing vegetation from beaches, leaving rubbish and fires all reduce turtle resilience" says Patrick.

There are estimated to be between 10 and 20 nests around Magnetic Island with flat backs laying three to seven clutches fortnightly from November to February with about 50 eggs per clutch while green turtles can lay 100 eggs. Sea turtles grow slowly and often take between 30 - 50 years to reach sexual maturity.

"Living here and having turtles nesting here is incredible" says Patrick, "It is something we need to cherish. Maybe one day they wont be there."

A barrier has now been erected at the Nelly Bay site to protect the nest area.

For more information about sea turtles (click here)

Story: George Hirst
Photos: Courtesy Queensland EPA

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Another threat to turtles
December 23rd 2008
So, if there was no fence or warning sign erected, how was anyone to know the eggs were there?
Who discovered there were even eggs in the ashes?
Considering it takes so long for turtles to copulate, why isn't there more funding put into the EPA to have a night watch team to ensure the safety of hese amazing stinger eaters?
Maybe the staff need to get stuck into Anna and insist on more dollars in the budget for biodiversity and wildlife protection.
December 23rd 2008
I agree. If the rangers know where the turtles are nesting, can they please add signs and fences to show people where they are? I'm sure people would then move to another part of the beach and leave them in peace.
December 30th 2008
Well, yet another female turtle near the one mentioned above was disrupted and distressed by silly camer-happy locals and visitors on Monday night, including a barking dog right next to the turtle! What idiot took their dog to the beach and let it bark at a turtle! Yet another reason not to have non-native animals in a sensitive area.
At the rate we are going,there won't be any successful egg-laying this season...pat yourselves on the back for bewing so bloody inconsiderate and foolish. GIVE THE TURTLES RESPECT AND SPACE!!!!
December 28th 2008
What are the the 'Boys in Blue' doing about under-age drinking parties in this spot? Particularly if it is a well-known party spot. Is it not true you need a permit to have a party on council or government land? - not to mention the issue of drinking alcohol in a public place (not to mention under-age drinking). So it would seem that part of the problem here is that Magnetic Island does not have a 24-hour police presence which is the source of not being able to solve many of the problems of anti-social behaviour which, with respect, is inherent in many parts of the Island. PS To Sara: perhaps if the nests were signed this would no doubt encourage certain types on the Island to dig the eggs up. Stop the illegal activity of drinking/partying on the beach, police the 'off-leash' by-law, control noisey anti-social behaviour and perhaps the Island would become a pleasanter place for all.
December 31st 2008
I don't live on the Island anymore (sadly!!!) now back in the UK but I like to keep up to date on whats going on with the Island, in particular the wildlife.

Now that I look on Maggie Island as an outsider I can see just how precious and rare it's eco-system is - perhaps many locals don't quite realise this because they've never known any different.

Seems that a major 'education' is needed to make people realise how their actions can cause irreversable damage to their eco-system.

To those who drive on beaches, who light fires and leave litter on beaches, who let their dogs dig holes and intimidate native wildlife, please, PLEASE, STOP - THINK - don't destroy your paradise, you are some of the luckiest people in the world to live somewhere so wonderful, stunning, rich in wildlife, many people would die to live on Maggie Island....

Please respect and care for your Paradise!!!!!!!

I don't want to come back in 10 years and for turtles or any other native creatures to be extinct like the dinosaurs!!!

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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