Young green sea turtles tracked travelling deep into Sydney harbour and living near humans
Endangered green sea turtles spend much of their young lives in close proximity to people, including travelling deep within Sydney harbour, new research suggests.
Satellite tracking shows turtles frequenting busy waterways, including the harbour and Parramatta River, around Wollongong harbour, Brisbane Waters near Gosford and up the Hawkesbury River, as far as Cottage Point.
It was not known why the turtles spend so much time hugging the coast when older ones and other species opt for the open ocean, but it places them at much higher risk from plastics and other marine debris.
The Taronga Wildlife hospital tracked three turtles after nursing them back from serious injuries. It observed one reaching Longueville, in upper Sydney Harbour, while the others travelled to Lake Macquarie and north to the busy tourist destination of Port Stephens.
Libby Hall, the coordinator of the hospital’s rescue and rehabilitation centre, said the study was plugging holes in the previously unknown behaviour of juvenile turtles.
‘We know what the adults do because there’s research all around the world … they go up on their nesting beaches,’ she said.
‘What we don’t know is what they do in between those years. It’s called the lost years.
‘We thought they’d swim off into the ocean and we’d track them across the ocean, but no – the [juvenile] green turtles hug the coast.’
Researchers were still attempting to discover why younger turtles spend so much time in busier and dirtier waters, but Hall thinks food sources might be the answer.
‘They don’t start eating seagrass until they’re big adult animals, so they’re probably feeding on jellyfish,’ Hall said.
The behaviour was also unique to the green turtles. Other species, like hawksbill turtles and loggerheads, make a beeline for the open ocean, with the tracking technology losing sight of them beyond New Caledonia and north of New Zealand.
One of three turtles currently undergoing treatment at the hospital is Tama, who was brought in as a hatchling roughly 18 months ago after being found at Tamarama beach.
‘She pooed plastic for six days, tiny pieces of plastic,’ Hall said.
‘She’s now a good size and age where she can be released back into the wild.’
The program, sponsored by waste management giant Veolia, has tracked 41 turtles since 2014.
(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.theguardian.com feed.)
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