Loggerhead hatchlings have an anxious start to life. After breaking free of their eggs, they must make a terrifying dash across the sand to the sea, avoiding predators along the way. But on Australia’s Wreck Rock Beach, many of them do not even reach that point – as they are gobbled up by goannas in their nests.
The beach is the second largest mainland-nesting site for endangered loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific Ocean and critical to their survival. But no one has been able to come up with an effective means of protecting their nests from the egg-loving lizards – until now.
During the last nesting season, WWF and the Burnett Mary Natural Resource Management Group supported the Wreck Rock Turtle Research Team to trial a new predator exclusion device along the beach. Under the guidance of Dr Col Limpus from the Queensland Government’s Turtle Conservation Project, more than 30 of the devices – made from aluminium grills – were placed over the loggerhead nests.
While turtle hatchlings can squeeze through the grill, the holes are too small for goannas. So in theory the nests and their precious eggs should be safe.
And the result? Excellent news. The devices had a success rate of over 80 percent with goannas only managing to break into four of the high-security nests. And 1,200 loggerhead hatchlings survived to flap their way across the beach before swimming off into the Pacific.
“To make sure these hatchlings come back to nest as adults, we need to work with colleagues in South America to reduce the threat of bycatch when they are feeding on the other side of the Pacific.”
Species Conservation Project Coordinator, WWF-Australia
Check out this video to learn more about what WWF-Australia is doing to help turtles.