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REEFCHAT: Saving our endangered turtles

Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle call our Great Barrier Reef home, and this World Turtle Day our latest ReefChat reveals what we’re doing to save our precious sea turtles.

An endangered species that once walked with dinosaurs, Green turtle populations across the world have been declining, but there’s still hope.

To mark World Turtle Day, our Managing Director Anna Marsden spoke live with the marine biologist and Emmy Award-winning cinematographer whose work features in David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef series, Richard Fitzpatrick, as well as the Queensland Parks and Wildlife ranger who is helping restore the world’s largest green turtle nesting area , Katharine Robertson.

The conversation began outlining the combination of threats to turtles that have landed them on the endangered list.  

The group talked about the hope for this important species, and the work the Foundation is leading to restore the world’s largest green turtle nesting area, Raine Island, and the benefits for the health of our Great Barrier Reef.

They also shared firsthand accounts of this summer’s nesting season on Raine Island, the largest since the project to restore this incredible island started almost five years ago.

“We counted more than 64,000 turtles. On one night alone, our team counted 11,969 turtles on the beach attempting to nest,” said Katharine Robertson.

Richard recounted a similar bumper nesting season during which there more than 20,000 turtles nesting in one night. 

“There was so much sand being flipped up as they dug their nests you had to be very careful where you stood,” he said.

Katherine described the moment she found a turtle nesting on Raine Island this summer that had been tagged by researchers nesting there 35 years ago.

“Considering turtles don’t start laying eggs until their thirties, this would mean that she is still laying eggs in her sixties!”

#Interesting turtle facts from ReefChat:

  • Turtles do cry, but not because they’re sad. They have glands that help to empty excess salt from their eyes, which makes it look like they’re crying.
  • Turtles live to around 100 years, which is also roughly the number of eggs female turtles lay when they nest.
  • Female marine turtles return to the same nesting grounds where they were born when it’s time for them to lay their own eggs.
  • Only around one in every thousand turtle hatchlings will survive to make it to adulthood.
  • A hatchling’s gender depends on the temperature of the nest. Hotter temperatures produce more females while more males emerge from cooler temperatures.