Western Cape York turtle nesting season is underway again. Turtles nest all year round on Cape York, but peak nesting time on the western Cape is from July to October each year.
This corresponds with the time of the year that the beaches are most accessible, and visitation to these remote beaches continues to increase.
All species of sea turtles nesting on the western Cape have experienced severe decline in numbers over the past few decades and are now listed as threatened species. This means that these turtles could disappear from the oceans forever without a change in human behaviour.
Turtles face many natural threats throughout their lifetime, but it is the impacts of human activities that now threatens their survival. Coastal development, marine debris, boat strikes, fishing practices and climate change are all threats to sea turtle survival.
Nanum Wungthim Ranger Coordinator Phillip Mango said that during the nesting and hatching season, turtles on western Cape beaches are easily disturbed by light, noise and movement of people and vehicles.
“Lights from night time driving or campfires can disorient emerging hatchlings, and vehicles can crush them as they attempt to reach the ocean” Phillip said.
Driving at any time can compact sand above nests.
“Even if eggs withstand the crush, hatchlings may be buried alive, unable to dig their way to the surface because of the compacted sand.
“Tyre ruts left by vehicles can confuse hatchlings so that it takes them longer to get to the water and increase their chance of being eaten by a predator” Phillip said.
Many of the major turtle rookeries in Queensland are within land that is owned or controlled by Indigenous communities. Indigenous rangers on the western Cape are involved in a range of activities to monitor and protect turtles nesting on beaches on the western Cape.
However, Rangers rely on the support of the entire community to assist them in their efforts to protect these species.
What you can do
Everyone has a role to play in helping to ensure that sea turtles do not disappear from the western Cape York beaches.
- If you have a vehicle on the beach, drive slowly on the beach at low tide and stick to the wet sand below the high tide mark whenever possible
- At night, do not have excessive lights on the beach as this can confuse nesting turtles and their hatchlings – this includes campfires
- If you see a nesting turtle on the beach at night, use minimal torch light and avoid sudden movements which may scare the turtle
- Do not allow your dogs to disturb nesting turtles or their eggs
WCTTAA is supported by Cape York NRM and is funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments' Nest to Ocean Turtle Protection Program.