January 19th 2010
Islanders form honour guard for tiny turtles
At dusk on Sunday afternoon at Nelly Bay beach about seventy Magnetic Islanders formed an impromptu guard of honour to witness the release of 28 newly-hatched flatback sea turtles as they flip-flapped their way down to the awaiting ocean.
The release followed an incomplete hatching from the nest early that morning.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger Jo Petersen said,
“When we arrived in the morning to check the nest we found that there were hatchlings still in the nest opening”.
Ranger Brian Johnson searches the tide line for hatchlings while QPWS volunteer Patricia O'Keefe and Ranger Nathan Winn excavate the egg chamber, QPWS were informed of hatchlings by residents. Photo Ean McDonald
“On advice from a local marine scientist a decision was made to remove the remaining hatchlings from the nest due to potential threats from dogs, birds and the heat had they been left there during the day”.
“The hatchlings were kept safe and able to rest during the day. They had plenty of energy for their release in the evening when they join the other 15 hatchlings that had made it to the ocean of their own accord earlier that morning before day light”.
The turtles kept safe before release Claire from Reef HQ Turtle Hospital and
Ranger Nathan Winn release the hatchlings
“We have been particularly fortunate with this particular nest as we witnessed both the mother turtle coming ashore to nest 45 days earlier and her hatchlings emerging.”
Mother flatback turtle lays her eggs (Photo Michael O’Keefe)
Jo petersen was keen to acknowledge the help and support of locals who have taken a strong interest in the nest which had been made very close to the Nelly Bay road and had been protected by parawebbing during the incubation period.
The nest site beside Nelly Bay road
“It is very encouraging to see the island people’s love of sea turtles, and their involvement in the turtle nesting season is always welcome and valued,” said Jo.
Just a few metres to go for baby turtle (foreground)
Paul Groves from GBRMPA was on hand to answer
questions and lead any straying hatchlings to the ocean
The reporting of turtle activity, tracks and nests by community members assists QPWS Rangers to collect important information. This is used to monitor the success of nesting as well as increasing knowledge about turtles and identifying and managing threats.
“This year we only recorded 4 nests, all along the Nelly Bay foreshore from the creek back towards X-base. 3 nests were successful with 43 turtles hatching from each nest from October to January”.
Both flatback and green turtles are considered to be vulnerable species and annually visit the island to nest.
One of the biggest threats to turtle nests along the Nelly Bay foreshore is vehicles parking on the dunes.
Turtle nesting season is winding down for this year. In future, to report turtle nesting activity and sick, injured or dead turtles, phone the local QPWS Rangers on 0407 590 378 or the DERM Marine Stranding Hotline 1300 130 372.
Photos not otherwise accredited courtesy of QPWS
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