Save sea turtles on the Great Barrier Reef

 
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Jan 14, 2014

Turtle nesting leads to a busy 2014!

Raine Island turtle heads back to the water
Raine Island turtle heads back to the water

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!

Green turtle hatchling on Raine Island
Green turtle hatchling on Raine Island
Injured turtle transported to vet clinic
Injured turtle transported to vet clinic
Oct 8, 2013

Tags, Trackers & Teamwork to Save Sea Turtles!

Researcher Johanna brings in a turtle for tagging
Researcher Johanna brings in a turtle for tagging

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.

Traditional Owners guide Walnut in for a tracker
Traditional Owners guide Walnut in for a tracker
A hawksbill turtle is released after health checks
A hawksbill turtle is released after health checks
2013 Turtle Health & Rehab Workshop attendees
2013 Turtle Health & Rehab Workshop attendees

Links:

Jul 11, 2013

May and June Big Months for Turtle Work

Green sea turtle sporting a new ID tag
Green sea turtle sporting a new ID tag

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!

STF volunteer about to release green sea turtle
STF volunteer about to release green sea turtle
Injured turtle transported in Parry Nissan ute
Injured turtle transported in Parry Nissan ute
Volunteers sorting rubbish at beach cleanup
Volunteers sorting rubbish at beach cleanup
Apr 12, 2013

Summer is fading and research trips are here!

Mission Beach volunteers learn stranding response
Mission Beach volunteers learn stranding response

Sea Turtle Foundation is continuing our work to protect sea turtles in Australia and around the world through research, education, and action.  We had a fairly low-key nesting season, with green turtles nesting in very low numbers and flatbacks in stable numbers.  STF volunteers were able to assist in directing hatchlings from one of the flatback nests on the Strand into the water; the heavy lighting in this very developed stretch of beach disoriented the hatchlings and they went straight into the road. 

STF has also been helping our state parks staff run trainings for volunteers to respond to turtle stranding calls (dead, sick or injured animals that wash up on shore).  The first training in Mission Beach had over 30 attendees, and the next training is full, over a month before the event! Two more trainings are planning in late May, in Airlie Beach and Mackay.  This will ensure we have trained volunteers covering over 600km of coastline!

Our research trips are set to begin next week (the first two dates were cancelled due to our unpredictable weather), and we'll be assisting JCU researchers with weighing, measuring, tagging and photographing turtles in the Edgecumbe Bay area, and checking them for fibropapilloma, parasites and general body condition.  Winter is usually when our stranding calls increase, so we hope to get a better idea of how the resident population is doing before the onset of the cooler weather.

Thank you for supporting Sea Turtle Foundation, and stay tuned for our upcoming reports from the field!

Sick turtle is transported to JCU Vet School
Sick turtle is transported to JCU Vet School
Jan 13, 2013

We're ready to save sea turtles in 2013!

Stranded turtle being cared for by JCU vet staff
Stranded turtle being cared for by JCU vet staff

Thanks for supporting sea turtle conservation on the Great Barrier Reef! I'd like to start the year off by letting you know what we accomplished in 2012, and what we're planning for 2013.

2012 was a busy year for us, with over 100 green sea turtles tagged and sampled in the north Queensland region.  Preliminary data from the research completed in 2012 shows that the disease called fibropapillomatosis (say that three times fast!) is still an issue for turtles in the region, particularly in Edgecumbe Bay.  On a more positive note, the number of stranded turtles was down from 2011 levels, and most of the turtles we encountered during research had at least a moderate body condition--this means we saw fewer starving animals than in the previous year.  This can be attributed to both a recovery of some seagrass beds, and a behavioural change in the animals to forage for other food sources, such as algae and mangrove leaves.

This year, we will continue to monitor sea turtles in our area, in partnership with the state Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP), James Cook University researchers, and our community volunteers.  We also hope to begin processing the samples we have collected so far, which we will be able to do thanks to all our supporters who have donated through this project.  In addition to the field research, we will continue to respond to stranding calls to attend sick, injured or dead turtles; we responded to two calls so far this year.  We also were able to assist with two flatback turtle nests laid on the Strand (a popular public beach in Townsville), and we'll be organising volunteers to monitor the hatchlings to make sure they make it safely to the water in the next few weeks.

Once again, thank you so much for your support.  We look forward to a busy year of research, education and action campaigns, to ensure that we all will have Turtles for Tomorrow!

Flatback turtle nesting (pic by Claire Bisseling)
Flatback turtle nesting (pic by Claire Bisseling)

Links:

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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Organization

Project Leader

Julie Traweek

Townsville, QLD Australia

Where is this project located?

Map of Save sea turtles on the Great Barrier Reef