Turtle Hatchlings on the Capricorn Coast
Turtle Hatchlings on the Capricorn Coast

Team Turtle doubles data to protect CQ’s shelled friends

THE 2019-20 turtle hatchling season has been one of the most well observed with Fitzroy Basin Association Team Turtle CQ volunteers capturing more than double the data of the year prior.

Since it formed in 2016, Team Turtle CQ has grown in numbers helping FBA get a clearer idea of how marine turtles use Central Queensland beaches.

Team Turtle CQ
Team Turtle CQ

Between November 2019 and March 2020, 36 volunteers scoured beaches along the Capricorn and Curtis Coasts recording marine turtles or evidence of their behaviour.

FBA community participation officer Lisa Del Riccio said the volunteers had increased reporting significantly over the past season

“Our 36 TTCQ members completed 251 BioCollect surveys, spying over 282 marine turtle tracks, 231 nests and 1,126 hatchlings,” Ms Del Riccio said.

“Compared to last year, TTCQ volunteers have submitted 243 more surveys, spying 261 more marine turtle tracks, 215 more nests and 598 more hatchlings.”

A change in data collection methods increased survey submissions, which was implemented before the nesting season.

Turtle tracks spotted by Team Turtle Central Queensland
Turtle tracks spotted by Team Turtle Central Queensland

This season, volunteers were asked to record every time they walked their local beach even if they saw no turtles or evidence of their behaviour.

“The increased sightings of nests, tracks and hatchlings may be tied to more volunteer activity and the three-year reproductive cycle of marine turtles,” Ms Del Riccio said.

“However, as the years go on and our data sets grow, we will get a much clearer idea.

“Again, we saw dedicated volunteers spending hours on the beach waiting for hatchlings to emerge from their sandy nests.

“This dedication also brought to light obstacles that threatened hatchlings’ chances of survival. “Artificial lights and European foxes were all witnessed to impact the vulnerable and endangered species.”

FBA, with local council groups, is attempting to reduce the threats before nesting season begins later this year.

European foxes were identified as a threat during the first season that TTCQ started collecting data.

Turtle nesting ground on the Capricorn Coast
Turtle nesting ground on the Capricorn Coast

However, since then, a den detection dog was brought to the region to assist with a targeted fox removal.

Projections estimate that since 2017, the fox population in the region has dropped by 66.7 per cent.

With the increasing amount of data, FBA’s understanding of turtles grows and so too its tactics to help them escape extinction.

The Team Turtle CQ Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, with support from Fitzroy Basin Association.

“FBA would like to thank all TTCQ members who dedicated hundreds of hours to walking our local beaches in the name of marine turtles,” Ms Del Riccio.

Turtle Hatchlings on the Capricorn Coast
Turtle Hatchlings on the Capricorn Coast