Merlie the loggerhead turtle is enjoying a well-deserved rest on World Turtle Day after completing her long journey home from Mon Repos in Bundaberg.
Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said Merlie had successfully made it back to her home foraging area in the Gulf of Carpentaria after laying her eggs.
“Today on World Turtle Day we celebrate our turtles and what better way than recognising the incredible journey of Merlie, who is back home feeding in her home waters after swimming 2670km from her breeding site at Mon Repos,” Minister Enoch said.
“Her lengthy homeward bound swim took 63 days, averaging 43km a day without stopping once.
“It is a mammoth effort to swim that far without any rest, and her journey is one of the longest breeding migrations the Department of Environment and Science (DES) has documented for an eastern Australian loggerhead turtle.
“Our Threatened Species biologists don’t expect Merlie to return to Mon Repos for the next three seasons, which is in keeping with her breeding patterns,” Ms Enoch said.
In 2019, DES held a competition to name the loggerhead turtle and Minister Enoch announced young Charlie Lewis as the competition winner, whose gravely ill mother, Merlie, always dreamed of holding a baby turtle.
“Before Charlie’s mother sadly passed away, she was able to fulfil her dream and will now be remembered whenever Merlie the loggerhead turtle and her great achievements are mentioned,” Minister Enoch said.
“Merlie was tagged as a nesting turtle in 1999 giving scientists the ability to monitor and track her movements, and she is the first to be studied at the new $22 million Mon Repos Turtle Centre.
“Since 1999, Merlie has laid 19 clutches totalling more than 2,500 eggs in 5 nesting seasons at Mon Repos, which is home to the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region.”
Mon Repos’ globally recognised beach and dune system supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and plays a key role in public education about marine turtles.
Annual tours led by rangers, biologists and volunteers at Mon Repos, combine public education about the past 50 years of turtle research and conservation with ecotourism in Queensland.