2500 baby turtles could drown at Rainbow

THOUSANDS of unborn turtles are at risk of drowning under the forces of ex-tropical cyclone Uesi, that yesterday drove large swells to lash the Cooloola Coast.

High tides combined with a powerful easterly swell twice as high as the average yesterday spewed water onto the shoreline at Rainbow Beach and Inskip Point, where an estimated 32-36 turtles nests are waiting to hatch.

Each nest of green and loggerhead turtles could contain up to 80 eggs, Cooloola Coast Care turtle expert Joan Burnett said.

The swell was likely to peak at between 2-2.5m late yesterday, before easing last night and into the weekend as the ex-tropical cyclone tracked towards New Zealand.

Beach erosion was expected when waters retreat, but the damage to incubating turtles would take some time to assess.

Left over shells at a green turtle nest that hatched at Beagle Campground at Inskip Point on Thursday.
Left over shells at a green turtle nest that hatched at Beagle Campground at Inskip Point on Thursday.

It was very disheartening, the volunteer turtle expert said.

“If the water just washes over them, they can survive those situations.

“But I would say we are losing some of the nests because they are inundated.”

At least 120 turtles have made it to the water from the area this month, Ms Burnett said.

On Thursday, 63 infant turtles “ran” to the water from the Beagle Campground at Inskip Point, with one baby stranded in the nest rescued by turtle volunteers.

This followed a similar number that safely hatched on February 2.

Cooloola Coastcare began monitoring turtle activity between the main beach at Rainbow Beach and the tip of Inskip Point during the 2018-19 turtle season when evidence of turtles nesting in the area increased.

Ms Burnett said she knew of people who had lived in the area for decades who had never seen evidence of a turtle at Rainbow Beach.

Now interest has grown.

The new turtle activity means respectful beach driving and keeping beaches clean has become vitally important.

“The first thing hatchlings do is open their mouths and eat tiny little specks of hard plastic,” Ms Burnett said.

This interferes with their ability to move in the water, she said.

“They haven’t got a chance if they fill up on it — if they are lucky they come back to shore sick.”

The wildlife organisation requires more help to monitor the growing number of turtles and nests in the area.

“While you are walking in the early morning, you can be looking for turtle tracks or hatchlings and reporting them.

“Keep a lookout and notify someone in Coast Care for possible sightings.

“Even sightings of dead turtles or egg shells are useful data for our research.”

Gympie Times


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