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Seasonal Migration… and those that stay

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It’s that time again! The humpback whale annual migration is heading south and the marine turtle courting and breeding season begins – ­where adult courting males and nesting females return to their birthplace from areas hundreds of kilometres abroad.

While these migratory breeding cycles increase whale and turtle populations, sadly, some individuals remain and become part of the island’s food-web providing extra sustenance for terrestrial scavengers including the island’s apex predators.

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Recent increases in humpback whale numbers on the east coast of Australia is widely published. Inevitably this also means an increase in the likelihood of whale stranding events. During this season there have been two humpback whale strandings reported for K’gari which is lower than average.

Due to its location, K’gari becomes the resting place for various species of wildlife including sea snakes, sharks, rays, dolphins, dugong, seals and also migratory birds (including short-tailed shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris and Australasian gannets Morus serrator). These strandings contribute to available food sources for dingoes and other scavengers.

Where possible, QPWS relocates larger deceased and stranded marine wildlife away from the popular visitor areas and beaches where they can pose safety hazards for vehicle traffic. Relocation also allows undisturbed and safe scavenging processes. Research is soon to be published on the importance of this food source to the island.

Strandings of large marine wildlife such as marine turtles and mammals are formally recorded on a state-wide online database called STRANDNET.

Article contributed by Linda Behrendorff (RIC NRM), Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Great Sandy National Park


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