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Thousands of turtles on Great Barrier Reef

Raine Island Turtles

Turtles in their thousands have taken up residence on Raine Island, a remote island on the northern tip of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Researchers from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service were kept busy on their first trip to Raine Island this month for the current green turtle nesting season, tagging more than 1200 turtles.

Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said this season approximately 25,000-30,000 turtles were expected to come ashore to lay at the remote island on the northern tip of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

“The research team was kept very busy, with more than 1,200 turtles tagged and measured during the 13-day trip,” Dr Miles said.

“And it’s expected the pace will pick up even more for the next research trip, which will be heading to Raine Island on Monday, 28 November 2016.”

The Raine Island Recovery Project is a five-year, $7.95 million collaboration between BHP Billiton, the Queensland Government, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Wuthathi Nation and the Kemer Kemer Meriam Nation (Ugar, Mer, Erub) Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

This is the third intensive monitoring season since part of the nesting beach was re-shaped to combat erosion that was badly affecting the turtles’ chances of nesting successfully.

Raine Island Recovery Project Scientist and turtle researcher Dr Andy Dunstan said the numbers of turtles visiting Raine Island fluctuates each year because turtles do not nest annually.

“Three years ago around 60,000 green turtles nested on Raine Island, while last year there were around 5,000,” Dr Dunstan said.

“We are expecting the numbers of nesting turtles to increase this year to around 25,000-30,000 with numbers varying from 5,000 to 60,000 in the following years.”

Dr Dunstan said a series of research trips to Raine Island were planned for the current breeding season, which ends in April 2017, to closely monitor the resilience of the green turtle population that nests on the island.

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Alana Lowes

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