World Science Festival turtle hatchlings released into East Australian Current

World Science Festival turtle hatchlings released into East Australian Current

Loggerhead turtle hatchlings that attracted huge crowds during the World Science Festival in Brisbane last month have been released into the East Australian Current off the south-east Queensland coast.

Scientists from the Queensland Museum, staff from Sea Life Mooloolaba and teenage members of Ocean Youth were on hand at the weekend to see the 58 hatchlings released 20 kilometres out to sea.

Queensland Museum reptile curator Patrick Couper said the release was « very rewarding ».

« The turtles are now on their way to New Zealand in the East Australian Current and they will reach the tip of the North Island in about five months time, » he said.

« The hatchlings will then move onto South America. »

The turtles had been kept at Sea Life following the festival.

« They had to be kept for nearly a month after the festival, and fed and kept in good order until we could get them out, » Mr Couper told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Craig Zonca.

« I’m so relieved to have them out in the ocean … as it’s difficult to keep young turtles.

« They start biting each other when they start feeding, so we try to get them out when they are still using their yolk reserve. »

Turtle eggs on show

The festival display attracted tens of thousands of visitors over the five-day event.

« One woman told me she waited for three hours to see the hatchlings and I was surprised at how popular it was, but it’s good to see that people are that interested in it, » Mr Couper said.

« We also used the opportunity to preach a strong conservation message. »

One of the last loggerhead turtle eggs waiting to hatch surrounded by young hatchlings.

To get the eggs to hatch during the festival, Mr Couper had to keep a constant eye on the incubators.

« It was a lot of work and I was coming in on weekends, worried that things could go wrong, but luckily they didn’t, » he said.

The survival rate for the turtles now they have entered the ocean is one in 1,000.

The many turtles that hatched live in front of crowds at the World Science Festival.

The hatchery will return to the festival next year, with organisers hoping to reduce crowd waiting times.

« It’s also a special year as we’ll be celebrating 50 years of turtle research at Mon Repos, so we will showcase that also, » Mr Couper said.