Loggerhead turtle nest found near Byron Bay

By Jennifer Ennion August 29, 2016
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128 loggerhead turtles have successfully hatched near Byron Bay, NSW, which is great news for the endangered species.

THE LOGGERHEAD TURTLE population off Australia’s east coast just got a little bigger following the recent hatching of a larger-than-normal nest in northern New South Wales. It’s welcome news for the endangered species, which is more frequently found in warmer climates.

The hatchlings had a better chance of survival than many of their northern cousins, with the nest in a habitat protection zone within Cape Byron Marine Park and Tyagarah Nature Reserve, near Byron Bay. This means fewer natural predators (although foxes and lace monitors are still a problem), and zero light pollution from nearby homes and businesses.

Jackie Corlass, a Cape Byron Marine Park officer, said it’s a remote area with few visitors. Four-wheel drives and dogs are also banned on Tyagarah Beach, making it a reasonably protected stretch of sand in the popular tourist region.

loggerhead turtle nest

National Parks officers carefully excavated the nest in June this year and counted 147 eggs, of which 128 had successfully hatched – an unusually high number. (Image: Jackie Corlass, NPWS)

Lucky find

The nest was first discovered in January this year by a local man walking along Tyagarah Beach. The man spotted the mother turtle’s tracks leading from the shore into the dunes, and reported his find to New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

“We really rely on the public to do that because tides and winds wash over the tracks pretty quickly,” said Jackie.

“There are probably plenty of nests that aren’t discovered as well, based on that, and a lot of people wouldn’t recognise the tracks. But he was someone who recognised the tracks and reported it.”

Although loggerhead turtles are known to lay along beaches in the state’s north, they more commonly call Queensland, Northern Territory and the top end of Western Australia home.

“We don’t have loggerheads nesting en masse down here, like at Mon Repos (Regional Park) for instance, up near Bundaberg, but it’s not unusual to have these odd nests,” explained Jackie.

loggerhead turtle nest

Loggerhead turtles can live for more than 50 years, and reach sexual maturity at 8-15 years after hatching. (Image: Steve Young Photography)

Unusually large nest

What makes this nest extra special is its large clutch size. NPWS rangers carefully excavated the nest on 29 June and counted 147 eggs, of which 128 had successfully hatched. It’s positive news for the species given that the average loggerhead nest contains 80 to 100 hatchlings.

“It’s nice to see… when there’s critically endangered species reproducing in the local area it’s really special,” said Jackie.

In Australia, the loggerhead nesting season generally occurs between November and February, while hatchlings emerge from late December until about April. The loggerhead is the most common nesting turtle species in NSW, however leatherbacks, greens and hawksbills are also found in the state.

NPWS encourages the public to report sightings of nests and hatchlings by calling their local office.