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Turtle Monitoring & Egg Relocation Training

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In December, three members of the Butchulla Land and Sea Ranger (BLSR) team (Myles Broome, Blayde Foley and Jodie Rainbow) undertook training with volunteers from Sandy Cape Lighthouse Conservation Association and Aub Strydom, learning how to monitor marine turtles and relocate nests up at Sandy Cape.

The team did patrols from the lighthouse to Rooney Point, back to Sandy Cape, turning back at Browns Rocks. Patrols were done both at night and during the day – when the rangers would drive along the foreshore looking for milbi (turtle) tracks.

“We mainly looked for the loggerhead tracks, which are more endangered than the greens, so that we could relocate the clutches of the loggerheads to a caged area. There are three caged areas located on the high tide mark to protect them from wongaries, goannas and tourists,” said BLSR Ranger Jodie Rainbow.

A female milbi can lay a clutch of up to 160 eggs, but loggerhead turtles lay their clutches shallower than the greens, making their nests more vulnerable to damage.

Basking or resting turtles were tagged and recorded along the beach. Tired from mating and swimming, and with multiple males trying to mate with the female turtles, turtles may deliberately beach themselves. Basking mostly takes place at night.

Tagging consists of immobilising the turtle before measuring its carapace (which is remeasured three times to get an accurate measurement) and checking for any courting damage, tags or tagging scars. GPS data and the distance from a marked pin are also recorded.  

The BLSR team assisted with placing satellite trackers and taking skin biopsies from three male turtles found basking. The turtles were then released at the beach in front of the lighthouse.

Three loggerhead nests were relocated to the caged areas at the front of the lighthouse. The eggs must be carefully handled so that the developing embryo does not move inside the egg. If this happens, it will kill the hatchling. Eggs were marked with a line facing the water to maintain their orientation until they were replaced in the sand. An egg chamber was dug in the caged area before the eggs were relaid and then re-covered with sand.

Finally, every morning at 09:00, the BLSR assisted with the weather report for Sandy Cape lighthouse. 

Contributed by the Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation’s Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers

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