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King tides threaten turtle egg clutches as ex-Tropical Cyclone Seth swamps Bundaberg beaches

Thursday January 6, 2022 - 00:34 AEDT
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High tides across the Bundaberg and Burnett Heads region have damaged turtle nests.  - ABC

King tides whipped up by ex-Tropical Cyclone Seth have made a treacherous run for the sea even more life-threatening for clutches of turtle hatchlings in Queensland's Wide Bay region.

Volunteers were called to action after high tides crumbled habitats where fragile turtle nests were incubating, including at Mon Repos Turtle Centre.

"All along the coastline we've had erosion to the sand dunes," Lisa Emmert, acting senior ranger for Discovery Coral Coast,said.

"At Mon Repos ?and any beaches that have turtle nests on them†?it's quite significant, because it can impact on turtle nests."

The Bureau of Meteorology said high tides peaked on Monday at Bundaberg and Burnett Head beaches at 3.6 metres and remained high on Tuesday.

The Department of Environment and Science said the unfavourable conditions coincided with the first reports that hatchlings had begun their trek towards the ocean at Mon Repos.

A clutch of loggerhead turtles hatched on Monday, the first of 187 that were incubating at Mon Repos.†

"Clutches would be close to hatching now, so they are probably more durable and would just be able to continue the process of developing," Ms Emmert said.

"So, we will continue to see how those clutches go as they hatch out."

'All hands on deck'

Mon Repos called for volunteers earlier this week to help preserve exposed turtle nests and save them from the elements.

"It is a very fragile process;†you do have to be quite careful," Ms Emmert said.

"However, in the circumstances where nests are being washed away rapidly, you just collect everything as best you can and have people dig new relocation holes in the dunes, and carefully relocate them into a suitable hole higher up in the dune.

"It's all hands on deck in this situation."

The president of the Sea Turtle Alliance, Ainsley Gatley, said dozens of eggs had been saved this week, as well as several hatchlings.

"We've definitely had about 30 to 40 clutches that have had to be moved," she said.

"Some hatchlings probably weren't quite ready to come out, but because [they were] exposed by that sand being eaten away, they've started their journey a little bit early thanks to the volunteers.

"As sad as it is to see ? it is nature, it is a part of what happens on beaches."

Ms Gatley said as hatchling season ramps up, it was important all turtles were left to their own devices.

"As tempting as it is to pick them up and carry them down to the ocean ? what happens is as they are running down the beach, they are picking up on the earth's magnetic fields," Ms Gatley said.

"Those magnetic fields actually imprint on their brain, so they know to come back to this area in 30 years' time."

Ms Emmert said it was fine to walk alongside hatchlings to ensure they made it to the ocean, while exposed eggs should be left to the professionals.

"There is a stranding hotline you can call and notify a nest is being eroded," she said.

"Documenting any nests that they see have been washed out, covering them with sand and marking them, and letting the hotline number know where they are."


© ABC 2022

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