You can almost hear the nearby she-oaks beckoning ‘caretta caretta’ as they shift in the warm summer breeze. Sounds quite lyrical doesn’t it? And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing a Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) lay her eggs on a QLD beach it is indeed like poetry in motion.
I have been one of many over the years who have donned the volunteer shirt to help the researchers and rangers at the Mon Repos turtle rookery. The pic below was reportedly taken in the 1930’s at the very same beach. It’s evidence that sea turtles have been attracting people’s attention there for quite some time!
And rightly so, sea turtles are gentle giants, marine reptiles that have adapted to life in the ocean, however they still keep a few of the characteristics of their terrestrial cousins. They still breathe air and come onto land to lay their eggs.
The female loggerhead will leave her foraging or camping ground and head to where the males are eagerly waiting to fight ‘scute and tale’ for a chance to mate. She won’t limit herself to one male though, why travel all this way to mate with just one guy? When she’s done, the female will make the trek to her rookery of choice.
If this is her first clutch of eggs the nesting site is chosen with the utmost care and consideration. She will have strong site fidelity, returning for decades to nest in the same area. She’ll lay up to 6 clutches over a couple of months containing an average of 110 eggs and with up to 5 different fathers!
By having offspring with a range of genetics, the female loggerhead has maximised the chance that at least some of her little ones will make it through to adulthood.
After the breeding season she is a shadow of her former self. She is likely to have travelled thousands of kilometres with little time to feed and may take a few years off breeding to get over the ordeal.
But it’s not all ‘ridin’ the EAC’ and mating with multiple partners for these magnificent creatures. They are endangered under State and Federal legislation. Over the last few decades some very dedicated people have worked to reduce impacts that include;
- Minimising predation of eggs by foxes and pigs on our beaches
- Reducing the glow from artificial light sources. Female turtles are sensitive to light and hatchlings will move towards it as they attempt to head to the lowest light horizon
- Working with the fishing industry to install turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) on trawling nets and
- Reducing speed limits of boat in key areas.
The population of nesting females along the eastern seaboard has been increasing slowly since the enforcement of TED’s in QLD. It gives me goosebumps to hear that over 430 nesting sea turtles dug their chambers in the sands at Mon Repos this season… that’s the biggest number in over 30 years.
If you enjoyed this entry subscribe to Before It’s Gone via email or RSS feed