Crowds witness rare spectacle at the World Science Festival Brisbane


By Toby Crockford

Visitors to the World Science Festival Brisbane were lucky enough to see a group of Loggerhead turtles hatching today, before they embark on a 16-year journey around the world.

The turtles on display were taken from Mon Repos, 15 kilometres north-east of Bundaberg, from January 16-20.

Patrick Couper manning the turtle hatching exhibition at the Queensland Museum.

Patrick Couper manning the turtle hatching exhibition at the Queensland Museum.

Ten eggs from five different clutches were taken 24 hours apart to ensure some turtles would hatch every day of the festival and at its conclusion 47 Loggerheads will have hatched.

These turtles will be taken 20 kilometres off the coast of Mooloolaba and released sometime next week.

On release, they will be picked up by the East Australian current and in five months time will be off the northern point of New Zealand and eventually off the coast of Chile and Peru.

It will then take the turtles 16 years to get back to Queensland, but once they return the Loggerheads will select a breeding ground and grow for another 13 to 14 years before they reach sexual maturity.

A Loggerhead turtle slowly escaping from it's egg.

A Loggerhead turtle slowly escaping from it’s egg.

Queensland Museum curator of reptiles Patrick Couper said the Loggerhead population is endangered, which means public education was vital to ensuring the survival of these reptiles.

“We’re trying to showcase the turtle research project in Queensland, the conservation results that have stemmed from that project and just make people aware of these wonderful natural resources in the state,” said Mr Couper.

The species was in danger of becoming extinct 16 years ago, when the numbers of nesting Loggerheads in Queensland dropped from 3500 in the 1970s to 500 by the year 2000.

This was primarily caused by fishing, however the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection was aware of the decline and introduced changes to fishing techniques, which triggered a comeback in Loggerhead numbers.

“From a low in Mon Repos of 120 nesting Loggerheads in 2000, they have risen to 387 this season,” said Mr Couper.

“Visitors absolutely love them! But one of the key questions I’ve been getting is, are the turtles dead, because it takes them 24 hours to come out of the egg and there’s a lot of inactivity.

“Today we’ve been able to show people that’s not the case because we also have a tank of little hatchlings swimming around.”