Endangered turtle hatchlings released on Country
Endangered Loggerhead Turtle hatchlings will be returned to Shelly Beach on the NSW Central Coast today after an epic egg rescue.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) teamed up with the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC), Central Coast Council, NSW TurtleWatch and Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast, who will release the hatchlings born earlier this week at Taronga Zoo's Wildlife Hospital.
NPWS Team Leader Conservation, Doug Beckers, said the decision was made to relocate the 80 day-old eggs from the nest when sand temperatures dipped critically low.
"These healthy hatchlings will be welcomed back to Country so they can make their first dash into the Pacific Ocean, the outcome that we had all desperately hoped for," Mr Beckers said.
"Intervening with the nest was our last resort, but the whole team pulled out all stops to save these eggs and thankfully the delicate operation paid off and we have given these hatchlings the best possible chance of survival," Mr Beckers said.
This is the first time a loggerhead turtle nest has been recorded this far south, and the first time Darkinjung LALC have performed a cultural handover of turtle eggs into care.
The Darkinjung LALC will lead the Welcome (back) to Country and smoking ceremony for the turtles before they return to the waves.
"We as Aboriginal people have a strong, not just physical, connection to the turtle and its relationship to our people," Uncle Kevin (Gavi) Duncan said.
"It's exciting for our people to see this as this hasn't happened on Country for a long time and it should be a beautiful night," Uncle Gavi.
Visitors to Shelly Beach who plan on watching the release of the turtle hatchlings are encouraged to obey all signage on site, listen to staff and please keep their dogs on a leash for the few hours of Sunday evening – this is to give the turtles a safe passage to the water.
Taronga Wildlife Hospital Senior Veterinarian Larry Vogelnest said: "We feel privileged to have been able to join our partners in helping these vulnerable loggerhead hatchlings. We had an entire team regularly monitor the eggs and then hatchlings' progress and health during their stay.
"Being able to release them back into the wild is an enormous group effort, so today is a good day for wildlife conservation."
Loggerhead turtles are listed as endangered and this nest was only one of two laid on NSW beaches this season.
Nest temperatures are vital to hatchling success and determine the sex of the turtles – these hatchlings are all male.
For more information on loggerhead turtles, visit the NSW Environment website or NSW TurtleWatch.