A turtle hatchling makes a break for the ocean after climbing free from their nest at Mon Repos.
A turtle hatchling makes a break for the ocean after climbing free from their nest at Mon Repos. Lachie Millard

Turtle turf war invalid: Scientist

IT'S the exhibition of Mon Repos turtle hatchlings that has Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey up in arms but experts say it is all positive news from their end.

Yesterday, the NewsMail reported on Cr Dempsey's anger about next month's World Science Festival in Brisbane exhibiting local hatchling turtles before releasing them into Mooloolaba passage.

Up to 70 eggs were taken from Mon Repos earlier this year and have been kept in an incubator until they will hatch just a few days before the festival and put on show.

Cr Dempsey said the move was the government department's "plot to undermine Mon Repos as Australia's iconic showcase of sea turtles".

But Queensland Museum's Patrick Couper said the hatchery was actually a major drawcard for the festival since it began in 2016 and was full of positive outcomes.

"It aims to increase public awareness and support for this endangered species," the Senior Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Biodiversity Program and Chairman, Animal Ethics Committee said.

"It also highlights 50 years of research at the world famous Mon Repos Loggerhead Turtle rookery: the importance of this work and the conservation outcomes.

"The event is undertaken with appropriate permits, approved by an Animal Ethics Committee and overseen by Dr Colin Limpus who runs the Queensland Turtle Conservation Project for the Department of Environment and Science."

Mr Couper said taking the turtles from Mon Repos and releasing them in Mooloolaba waters would not bring the tiny animals any harm or confusion.

"The World Science Festival hatchlings will be released 20km off Mooloolaba into the Eastern Australian Current where this age class of Loggerhead Turtles begin the open ocean phase of their life history," he said.

"Whether this occurs off Bundaberg or the coast of Mooloolaba makes no difference.

"All young Eastern Australian Loggerhead Turtles undergo the same oceanic journey, spending their early lives off the coasts of Chile and Peru and returning to Queensland waters around 16 years later."

While Mr Dempsey argued the exhibition in Brisbane would take away from Bundaberg's famous tourism site, Mr Couper said that wouldn't be true.

"The event highlights Mon Repos as a destination for those wanting a truly unique wildlife encounter and provides access for community members who would not otherwise be able to enjoy this unique experience," he said.

 

Loggerhead turtles are constantly hatching at Mon Repos.
Loggerhead turtles are constantly hatching at Mon Repos. Lachie Millard

HOW DO TURTLES FIND THEIR WAY HOME?

Queensland Museum's Patrick Couper said the long-held view that a female turtle returns to the beach where she hatched is not supported by current research.

"Turtles imprint to the Earth's magnetic field but the precision of this imprinting is not at a scale that provides accurate imprinting to a specific small beach," he said.

"Some of the World Science Festival Loggerhead Turtles may return to Mon Repos to nest but this is more by chance than design.

"Others may nest elsewhere on the Queensland coast within the natural breeding range of this species (the islands of the southern Great Barrier Reef to the sand islands of Moreton Bay).

"It should be remembered that only one in 1000 hatchlings will survive the 30 years it takes to reach breeding age."


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