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!