Severe heat takes toll on turtles : shelter erected

Severe heat takes toll on turtles  : shelter erected

TURTLE hatchlings are emerging and dying as the scorching midday sun heats the sand at Mon Repos to record temperatures.

Shade cloth has been erected at Mon Repos by researchers working to save thousands of eggs.

Environment and National Parks Minister Steven Miles said researchers expected more than 300 clutches of turtle eggs to benefit from a simple solution to the problem of hot sands caused by this summer’s successive heatwaves.

« When scientists observed that the surface sand temperature was rising to levels they had not seen before at Mon Repos they knew they had to act quickly before the heat of summer started to affect the incubation success of eggs at the rookery, » Dr Miles said.

« By the end of this nesting season they will have relocated more than 300 clutches of eggs to shaded areas of the beach, » he said.

« With each clutch consisting of upward of 100 eggs, that’s thousands of turtles making their way to the ocean when they otherwise might never have hatched at all. »

Dr Miles said the intervention was not a moment too soon with the midday sand temperatures at the top of one dune reaching 77 degrees on Thursday last week.

« It’s too late for the clutches that were laid two months ago before the first heatwave hit and tragically we are now seeing hatch- lings emerging and dying in the midday sun, » he said.

EHP chief scientist Col Limpus said his team acted quickly as soon as it realised an abnormal weather event had begun.

« We know that temperatures start to affect incubation rates of turtle eggs at around 32 degrees, » Dr Limpus said.

« Sand surface temperatures under the shade cloth are around 30 degrees cooler than on the exposed dunes and we’re confident that at nest depth, up to 60cm below the sand, temperatures are remaining lower than the critical 32 degrees, » he said.

About 200 clutches of turtle eggs have hatched at Mon Repos this season and it is expected that more than 1300 clutches of eggs will hatch in total.

Dr Limpus said the current record breaking temperatures were in stark contrast to the previous nesting season which was the coldest on record.