The last few months have brought us the pitter-patter of tiny flippers, as flatback and green turtles nest and hatch on Australian beaches. Sea Turtle Foundation has been active in monitoring nesting activity in the region, as well as participating in a research trip to Raine Island, the largest green sea turtle nesting beach in the world!
STF volunteers patrolled AIMS beach for 19 days in November and December. This beach is remote and has controlled access, so it is ideal for both nesting turtles and researchers; tracks and nests are undisturbed by humans. Volunteers sighted one nesting flatback, and at least ten possible nests. Unfortunately, predation by foxes and goannas was a problem, with several nests destroyed. On a positive note, the weather was very cooperative and no nests laid within our monitoring period were lost to high tides or storm surges.
Raine Island is a remote island that is critical nesting habitat for both endangered turtles and seabirds. Staff were able to join a 9-day trip with state and indigenous rangers to monitor nesting and hatching success, which has been declining in the last decade. Losing Raine Island would have a catastrophic effect on the green turtle population. During the trip, an average of 1900 turtles per night came up to nest, with approximately 20% nesting success rate. This is very low, and STF will be supporting research into the causes and solutions for Raine Island in 2014.
Turtles don’t take holidays off, even though people do, so STF was the primary responder to stranded turtle calls over the holiday break. We responded to four calls, including two ill turtles who were transported to veterinary care. Even when turtles don’t make it, the data collected from the incident are vital to understanding where and why turtles are stranding, and if there are any unusual trends or environmental issues of which we should be aware.
Our plans for 2014 include a continuation of our turtle health, stranding and rehabilitation activities, and an expansion of our education and awareness activities. We hope you’ll join us in 2014 to help ensure there are Turtles for Tomorrow!
Winter in north Queensland is on its way out, and the hot, humid summer is upon us! In the last three months, we have completed two more research trips to add to our knowledge about why green turtles are getting fibropapilloma and blood fluke infestations; researchers tagged nearly 50 more turtles on these two trips. Generally, the turtles are exhibiting good body condition, particularly for this time of year (the end of winter is often a peak period for sick and stranded animals).
One of the larger turtles caught on the most recent research trip was released with some extra equipment--thanks to Queens Beach Action Group, Walnut the male sea turtle was fitted with a satellite tracker in addition to the standard titanium flipper tag. Since only females leave the water to nest, the vast majority of tracking data has been obtained from female turtles (it's much easier to catch a turtle on land than in the water!). Researchers hope to learn more about where male turtles congegrate and how they travel, particularly now when breeding/nesting season is about to start. If you would like to follow Walnut's travels, click the link below.
Another major achievement this quarter was the very successful third annual Sea Turtle Health and Rehabilitation Workshop, co-sponsored by Sea Turtle Foundation and James Cook University. This workshop brought together sea turtle specialists, rehab center workers, community group leaders, and veterinarians to talk about the latest issues in sea turtle health and best practices for caring for sick and injured turtles. Over 125 people were able to share their knowledge, and the network of rehabilitation and triage facilities is growing across Australia.
As October and the wet season gear up, so do we--nesting season is almost here! Flatback and green turtles will be coming ashore to lay their eggs, so we are planning our nesting monitoring activities now. Stay tuned for the next report--we hope to have lots of good news about turtle nesting success! Thank you to all our donors and supporters--we couldn't do it without you, and with all of us working together, we can ensure there will be Turtles for Tomorrow.
Sea Turtle Foundation has been working hard this quarter to protect sea turtles and their habitats.
STF has partnered with James Cook University researchers to trial a new observational monitoring program, which would allow fishers, boaties, and people on our beaches to record sea turtle sightings. The data collected will be input into a database that will track where turtles are congregating and be used to track population trends. Thanks to support from Global Giving donors, STF has been able to coordinate volunteers for this project and provide support for five research trips to test the new program.
STF has also been continuing our partnership with JCU, WWF, the Gudjuda and Girringun people, Queens Beach Action Group, and Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service to monitor the health of sea turtles in the Whitsundays region. We have completed two research trips to Bowen this quarter, processing over 100 turtles and recording data about their health. Unfortunately, the incidence of fibropapillomatosis seems to be increasing after a period of low incidence, so it is vital that the research into this disease in this area continues.
We have also been looking after sea turtle habitat by conducting five area beach cleanups in April and May. Volunteers gave up their Saturday mornings to clean up five beaches. By far, the vast majority of rubbish we collected was plastic that had washed in from the ocean; the number one items were plastic bottle caps and food wrappers. Everyone can help reduce this type of waste by using reusable food and drink containers, and making sure that any plastic waste ends up in the rubbish bin, not the water!
Finally, we have won use of a ute for six months from local car dealer Parry Nissan. This ute has been an incredible help, as we go into a period of higher stranding incidence. We have already used the ute for research trips and community events, and for transporting injured turtles. A huge thank you to Parry Nissan for sponsoring us!
We couldn't be doing all this important work without the support of Global Giving donors like you. I would like to thank every one of you for supporting Sea Turtle Foundation and helping us protect turtles and their ocean. Together, we can make a difference and ensure there are Turtles for Tomorrow!