Researchers take to the skies to discover turtle ‘hot spots’

Researchers take to the skies to discover turtle ‘hot spots’

Queensland researchers took to the skies in a bid to conserve turtle populations and discovered almost 200 previously unrecorded turtle nesting sites..

In a joint project between WWF Australia and the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, a helicopter survey was conducted along the Whitsunday-Burdekin-Townsville coastline.

The survey discovered 185 previously unrecorded turtle nesting ‘hot spots’ of flatback turtles and green turtles.

The survey covered area between Townsville and the Whitsundays.The survey covered area between Townsville and the Whitsundays. Photo: Google Maps

The three largest turtle nesting spots recorded during the survey were at Rita Island (51 turtle tracks), Paradise Bay (22 turtle tracks) and Abbot Point (21 turtle tracks).

The survey also discovered many turtle ‘hot spots’ overlapped with feral pig tracks, which indicated feral pigs were targetting these turtle nest sites.

WWF Australia’s Species Conservation Project Coordinator Christine Hof hoped the comprehensive survey would contribute to better on-ground conservation programs.

« Our survey was the first comprehensive assessment of turtle nesting and predator activity in the Whitsunday-Burdekin-Townsville region and we gathered vital information, » Ms Hof said.

« This is a very welcome discovery: the number of turtles nesting is regionally substantial and the numbers found may be very important for sustaining populations. »

Queensland Government research scientist Dr Ian Bell said aerial surveys like this could provide a more comprehensive understanding of turtle nesting sites and feral pig movements.

« We really didn’t have a clear idea of nesting and predator activity across a big stretch of the northern Great Barrier Reef, we only had anecdotal evidence and the results of on-ground surveys that focused on accessible areas, » Dr Bell said.

« Now that we know the nesting and predation ‘hot spots’ we can target management action in these locations to reduce predation impacts and focus effort to protect turtles in these areas. »

Researchers have suggested the survey be expanded to include the entire Queensland coastline to assist in creating a better on-ground action plan for turtle breeding programs and feral pig population control.

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