A tale of two turtles, one good and one sad
THERE is a tale of two turtles developing in the Clarence Valley: one sad and one potentially happy.
On the sad news front vets in Coffs Harbour are conducting an autopsy on a rare leatherback turtle found dead on Rabbit Island in the Clarence River estuary last week.
The vets received the body of the 200kg monster on Friday and conservationists are asking what the creature was doing so far out of its normal range.
National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Dave McFarlane, who was one of the people who load the turtle into the back of a ute for the trip to Coffs Harbour, said the animal had been attacked.
"Something had had a chew at its rear flipper and also a front flipper,” he said.
"But it was hard to tell if that happened before or after it had died.”
Mr McFarlane said his research showed the turtles, which can grow up to 750kg in size, largely on a diet of jellyfish, are rare around the world, but nearly unheard of on the Clarence Coast.
"This one measured around 130cm across and weighed 200kg. That's around the average, but there are bigger ones.” he said.
"They are just something you hardly ever see.”
On a happier note Mr McFarlane and other NPWS personnel and volunteers are keeping a close eye on a sea turtle nest containing about 80 eggs, which could hatch any day.
He said the NPWS had fenced off the nest, at Wilson's Headland, between Wooli and Diggers Camp, to protect the eggs from predators.
"They're checking the temperature of the nest because temperature controls the sex of the hatchlings,” he said.
"It's the same as for crocodiles. If it's too cold they will be mostly male, its it's warm, they will be mostly female.”
He said the turtle had made its nest well up on the dune, which should help keep the nest temperature in the normal range.
Mr McFarlane said the eggs take between 60 to 80 days to hatch.
"Hopefully we'll be seeing some action any day now,” he said.
Sea turtles can lay up to 110 eggs in a clutch and can do this two to eight times a year.
But only about one in a thousand hatchlings reaches maturity, with many falling prey to predators as they make their way from the nest to the water.
Hatchlings use a carbuncle (temporary egg tooth) to help break open the shell when they're ready to go.
After hatching, the young turtles may take three to seven days to dig their way to the surface.
Hatchlings usually wait until night to emerge from the nest.