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Turtle Nesting Success Rates Reach New Heights

Nest survival rates for the turtle populations have reached new highs over the past season with up to 98% unscathed at some of the remote beach locations on Western Cape York. 

The figures were revealed at the Western Cape Turtle Threat Abatement Alliance (WCTTAA) annual forum held in Cairns in December and convened by Cape York Natural Resource Management.

Some 26 attendees gathered to provide data on nesting numbers for the 2021 season, which reviewed predation rates, protection methods and compared successes and trials faced during the season’s work.

Some of the key results for 2021 included:  

  • 3,698 marine turtle nests were monitored 
  • 7 census beaches, covering 150km were monitored 
  • 2,693 pigs were removed
  • The average nest predation rate was 10% (the target is to achieve less than 30%)

Despite overall predation rates being among the lowest in the past six years of the program, a number of challenges were reported by the Ranger groups Pormpuraaw Land and Sea Management Rangers,  Mapoon Land and Sea Management Rangers, Napranum’s Nanum Wungthim Rangers, and NPARC/ Apudthama Rangers and Kowanyama Rangers.

These included weather events, such as the long wet season which created more mud inshore and restricted early beach access at Pormpuraaw; big winds and one metre waves and subsequently more marine debris, which made it difficult to monitor Skardon Beach at Mapoon; and large storms hitting the Jardine beach while Apudthama Rangers were camped there.

Human interference was also a problem for rangers at Napranum, who recorded 39 Flatback turtle nests destroyed after being run over by vehicles on Pennefather Beach. 

All ranger groups agreed keeping up with pest control and culling of feral pigs was difficult due to costs of helicopter hire and stretched Ranger resources. 

“There are a lot of challenges, and as we are hearing, additional threats such as the increasing number of vehicles on some beaches, local fisheries, and marine debris and ghost nets – all need to be addressed on a bigger scale,” Cape York NRM Biodiversity and Fire Program Manager and WCTTAA Coordinator Kerri Woodcock said.

“This is not to take away from the amazing work the Ranger Groups and others are doing on Country to protect the turtles. Look at the numbers being presented here, with more than 90 per cent of nests surviving to hatching. These Rangers are on the ground, protecting, caring for and strengthening our turtle numbers in sometimes 40 degree heat, in some of the most remote parts of the country."

WCTTAA is a partnership of five Indigenous ranger groups on Western Cape who have been working together in  marine turtle conservation since 2015. Supported by Cape York NRM the work is funded through the Nest to Ocean Turtle Protection Program.

“Our knowledge and data base are growing with each year and low predation rates are being sustained  - the WCTTAA program is succeeding at maintaining these local turtle populations for the future.”

The meeting also heard from representatives from APN Cape York, Rio Tinto; Queensland Department of Environment and Science, including from Mike Gregory who oversees the Nest to Ocean Turtle Protection Program which supports WCTTAA; the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment; and the National Feral Pig Action Plan. 


Media Contact

Andree Stephens, Communications Officer, Cape York NRM
P: 0438 082 939   E: