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    Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    As final visitors leave, the last hatchlings are set to emerge at Mon Repos

    Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    Sunday, March 19, 2017

    As final visitors leave, the last hatchlings are set to emerge at Mon Repos

    Rangers and volunteers at Mon Repos Conservation Park near Bundaberg are hosting their last turtle encounter visitors today (Sunday, 19 March), as they close the beach and wait for remaining clutches to hatch out.

    Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles said it had been a good season for nesting at the most important loggerhead rookery on Australia’s mainland, but fierce heatwaves had baked the beach and resulted in lower numbers of hatchlings. 

    “It’s been a mixed season for turtles and visitors, and tours are fully booked up to the final night,” Mr Miles said.

    “Plenty of eggs were laid during the season and we hope many are still to hatch out. Since early November, more than 400 individual loggerheads have come ashore on the Woongarra Coast multiple times to dig nests – which is slightly up on last season. 

    “Ten flatback turtles and two green turtles also nested along the Woongarra Coast this season.

    “In mid-February, the park had to cut back on the numbers of visitors taking part in the remaining Turtle Encounter Tours. This happens each year if there is likely to be less hatching activity to be seen,” he said.

    Turtle nesting season at Mon Repos usually occurs from late October to January, and hatching from January to April.

    “While there are usually still hatchlings emerging until late April, the low numbers mean tours are not viable beyond mid to late March,” Mr Miles said.

    “Once tours finish, the beach stays closed until the end of April to protect the remaining clutches of hatchlings as they emerge. Every hatchling counts.

    “Hatchling numbers from the current season won’t be known till after data is collated in May.

    “We do know that many clutches were affected by the heat that reached 81 degrees on the sand surface.

    “Staff and volunteers helped improve the incubation success of clutches laid late in the season by moving about 150 clutches of eggs to areas covered by shade structures.

    “With each clutch consisting of upward of 100 eggs, that’s thousands of turtles making their way to the ocean when they otherwise might never have hatched at all.

    “Our scientists attached trackers to turtles including Sweet Pea the 56-year-old loggerhead – named by Junior Turtle Rangers from St Luke’s Anglican School – and followed their nesting forays and then the journeys to their feeding grounds,” Mr Miles said.

    Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson said this season had been one of the best in years in terms of visitor numbers.

    “By the last tour on Sunday night (19 March), QPWS will have hosted more than 30,000 people on the nightly wildlife spectacle,” Ms Donaldson said.

    “We should know tomorrow (Monday) if visitor numbers will break last season’s record of 30,227,” she said.

    Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger-in-Charge Cathy Gatley said rangers and volunteers had enjoyed imparting their knowledge to hundreds of visitors each night, and hoped their egg-moving efforts had saved hatchlings.

    She thanked Bundaberg and North Burnett Tourism for managing tour bookings.

    “This season, we’ve had thousands of visitors from other countries, with highest numbers from Germany and the UK,” she said.

    Volunteer Fiona Hoffmann said the many hours volunteers spent on the dunes at night showing visitors the turtles laying and the hatchlings emerging were rewarding, despite the expected impact of the heatwaves.

    “Mon Repos is a wonderful family experience, and also one to share with interstate and overseas visitors,” she said.

    Next season’s turtle encounters will start in November 2017. Make plans to book a tour once bookings open on 1 September by calling (07) 4153 8888, or online at www.bundabergregion.org/discover-the-turtles.

    Mr Miles said visitors to this week's Science Festival in Brisbane still had the chance to see loggerhead hatchlings at the Queensland Museum’s Hatchery from March 23-26.

    “This was a hugely popular activity at 2016’s Festival, and has been designed in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s Chief Scientist Dr Col Limpus,” Mr Miles said.

    “Within the next 12 months, the hatchlings will be released to the ocean on the Sunshine Coast.”

    ENDS

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