107 endangered turtle hatchlings returned to ocean after successful nest rescue

Following a rescue from a rapidly cooling nest and subsequent artificial incubation, 107 baby Loggerhead turtles have hatched and were successfully released back into the ocean at Fingal Beach this weekend.

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) hatchlings making their way to the ocean

NSW Turtle WatchProject Officer Holly West said the eggs, laid on Fingal Beach in early February this year, had to be rescued in April due to falling sand temperatures.

“When the sand temperature drops below 24oC in sea turtle nests, embryo development slows. If we didn’t act, it was highly likely that the precious baby turtles developing inside the nest on Fingal Beach would die,” said Ms West.

“National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) made the decision to rescue the eggs and transfer them to an artificial incubation chamber, which was designed and built by Green Heroes volunteers.

“Incredibly, of the 113 eggs that were transferred to the incubator, 107 baby turtles hatched successfully. This is a hatch success rate of 97% for the rescued eggs, which is a wonderful result for this endangered species,” said Ms West.

Following a beautiful ‘Welcome to Country’ by local Fingal Elder Aunty Dale Williams and a ceremonial dance by her son Ernie Williams, the first of the baby bingings (turtles) were released by local Fingal Elders Aunty Dale Williams, Aunty Marcia Browning, Aunty Chris Morgan, Uncle Clarry Williams and Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) Chairperson Des Williams. They were joined by Fingal Coastcare’s Kay Bolton and Kate McKenzie and Fingal Community Association’s Helen Twohill.

CEO of the Tweed Byron LALC Leweena Williams said the nest was laid within Tweed Byron LALC lands and the experience from collection to release was incredible with all ages in attendance.

“We thank all involved for making it such a wonderful event and for honouring our local Goodjinburra people and Elders. We make special mention of NPWS, Australian Seabird Rescue, Steve and Erin Kudzius and our Tweed Byron LALC Rangers who made this pilot project a huge success,” said Ms Williams.

“Fingal Head Coast Care, Fingal Community Association and Tweed Shire Council play pivotal roles in protecting these lands and waters every single day, year in year out, in collaboration with the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council and the local community.

“Together we are part of the story of this land and play a vital role in Caring for this Country for the future sustainability of many local and international species that live on this peninsula including these baby Binging (turtle),” said Ms Williams.

Sea turtle populations are up against it globally. As a slow breeding species, their ability to respond to the challenges posed by climate change and other human activities is limited.

“This successful rescue is a wonderful example of teamwork between NPWS, NSW Turtle Watch, Australian Seabird Rescue, Green Heroes, Tweed Shire Council and the Tweed Byron LALC ensuring the best possible outcomes for this nest and the hatchlings,” said Ms West.

Under the direction and guidance of NPWS and turtle experts, local wildlife carers and Green Heroes volunteers Steve and Erin Kudzius designed and built the fit-for-purpose incubator which housed the developing eggs during the crucial artificial incubation period.

The NSW TurtleWatch program has been developed by Australian Seabird Rescue. It is supported by the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program in partnership with NPWS and the Marine Estate Management Strategy.

If you see signs of turtle nesting, nest disruption or hatchlings at your local beach, please call NPWS on 13000PARKS or Australian Seabird Rescue on 0468 489 259 as soon as possible.

Images and video: Dropbox – Fingal turtle hatchlings

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