Six Months on: Mass Turtles Deaths Remain a Mystery

Posted on 16 January 2013  | 
Lydia Gibson (WWF-Australia) tagging green turtles at Edgecombe Bay, May2011 (near Bowen where WWF, James Cook University and traditional owners are researching an outbreak of the fibropapilloma virus.)
Lydia Gibson (WWF-Australia) tagging green turtles at Edgecombe Bay, May2011 (near Bowen where WWF, James Cook University and traditional owners are researching an outbreak of the fibropapilloma virus.)
© WWF-Aus / Jürgen Freund Enlarge
WWF-Australia is calling on the Queensland Government to urgently release toxicology results
following mass turtle deaths at Upstart Bay, near Townsville, last year.


“It’s been six months since 73 turtles washed up on the beach. But the silence from the Queensland Government is deafening,” WWF spokesperson, Darren Grover said. “What happened? Why did so many turtles die? And why is the Government taking so long to release toxicology results?” Mr Grover asked.

“It shouldn’t take six months to carry out these sorts of tests. We need answers and we need them now,” he said. “These animals are already under so much pressure. Near-record numbers of turtles died in 2012 and this follows right on the heels of Queensland’s worst year ever, with 1783 strandings in 2011.

The latest figures show almost 1300 dead and dying turtles were stranded on Queensland beaches between January and November 2012 (data for December is not yet available). “That’s almost double the number of strandings in a ‘normal’ year– and they’re just the ones we know about,” Darren Grover said.

Townsville was the worst affected area, where 298 turtles were stranded in 2012 compared with 286 in 2011 (over the same period) and just 82 in 2010. “What we are seeing is the lingering effect of the floods and cyclones of 2011. Thousands of hectares of sea grass were wiped out and covered in toxic sediment. It may take years for these feeding grounds to recover,” Mr Grover said. “Unfortunately, turtles tend to be faithful to their feeding grounds. They don’t have the instinct to move on in search for food so they are literally starving to death. “The health of turtles is an accurate indicator of the health of our Reef. But Queensland’s turtle hospitals are being overwhelmed with sick and starving animals.

“WWF-Australia is raising money to build more tanks for turtle hospitals. But these iconic creatures need more than that. They need a healthier home – a healthier Reef. “Reducing pollution is the key. If we can reduce the amount of fertiliser, mud and pesticide run-off, we can protect turtle feeding grounds and limit potential damage from future extreme weather events. “WWF is calling on the Federal Government to invest at least $500 million to improve water quality. We’re also urging the Queensland Government to support turtle hospitals and ensure the survival of these magnificent animals. ”

Images and video are available upon request


WWF-Australia contacts:
Sarah Best: 0421 897 087, sbest@wwf.org.au

Lydia Gibson (WWF-Australia) tagging green turtles at Edgecombe Bay, May2011 (near Bowen where WWF, James Cook University and traditional owners are researching an outbreak of the fibropapilloma virus.)
Lydia Gibson (WWF-Australia) tagging green turtles at Edgecombe Bay, May2011 (near Bowen where WWF, James Cook University and traditional owners are researching an outbreak of the fibropapilloma virus.)
© WWF-Aus / Jürgen Freund Enlarge

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