As countries observe World Turtle Day (Tuesday May 23) the number of marine turtle species listed as endangered in Queensland has climbed to four.
This month the Queensland Government officially up listed the hawksbill turtle from vulnerable to endangered – the most serious status for wildlife in Queensland. It is only surpassed by a classification that a species is extinct in the wild.
Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle live in Queensland waters. Four are now listed as endangered – loggerhead, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback – and two are listed as vulnerable – green and flatback.
WWF-Australia recognised World Turtle Day by making free lessons available to all primary schools on the threats marine turtles face and what students can do to help.
The downloadable resources are the result of a partnership between WWF-Australia and Cool Australia, a leading online educational organisation.
WWF-Australia spokesperson Chris Hof announced the lessons while visiting Kalkie State School in Bundaberg, home to Mon Repos, famous for its nesting turtles.
Kalkie State School is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Reef Guardian Schools Program, and today became one of the first schools to use the turtle lessons.
Students there have already taken part in work to help turtles by reducing marine debris and the artificial light which confuses hatchlings.
Ms Hof told the youngsters about the plight of all marine turtles, and particularly about the recent up listing of hawksbill turtles.
After millions were killed globally for their colourful shells, the northern Great Barrier Reef was left with one of the few remaining large populations in the world. But at Milman Island – their highest density nesting site – hawksbill numbers are declining at an alarming rate.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and the kids at Kalkie are setting a great example,” said Ms Hof.
“To have all of Queensland’s marine turtles listed as vulnerable or endangered shows the challenges ahead.
“If we’re going to save hawksbills and all our turtles we need to raise awareness and that’s why these free lessons are so important,” she said.
Students will even be encouraged to think outside the box and design ways in which turtle nests can be protected.
In some places goannas or pigs are eating too many turtle eggs or increased temperatures from climate change are cooking the eggs.
Other ways that people can help turtles include limiting beach access for vehicles that can damage nests and kill new-born turtles, reducing artificial light that disrupts nesting females and confuses hatchlings, and removing debris that can block entry to beaches.
Kalkie was not the only school observing World Turtle Day.
In the Northern Peninsula Area, Apudthama Indigenous Rangers visited Bamaga primary campus to talk turtles and what kids can do to help.
Access the lesson plans here: wwf.org.au/coolaustralia
The lessons were made possible by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (Eldon & Anne Foote Trust Donor Advised Program 2016.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571