Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Endangered loggerhead turtles losing their battle with egg-stealing goannas

Red flags and hot chilli powder do not stop the yellow-spotted goannas from raiding nests on Wreck Rock beach, Queensland



Wednesday 29 April 2015 07.24 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 29 April 201507.27 BST

Scientists are working to find out ways to prevent goannas devouring the eggs of endangered loggerhead turtles after deterrents such as red flags and attempts to smother nests with hot chilli powder failed.

Researchers have focused their efforts at Wreck Rock beach, between Bundaberg and Gladstone, in Queensland. The beach is the second largest nesting site for loggerhead turtles in Australia but there is a growing problem of goannas feasting on turtle eggs.

It is estimated goannas raid about half the 500 nests laid by turtles on the beach between November and February. Each nest has 100 to 120 eggs, so this means several thousand never become hatchlings.

The problem was identified by local volunteers who realised that while foxes, which previously preyed upon the eggs, had successfully been killed off with poisoned bait, goannas had taken their place in recent years.

A coalition of academics, conservation volunteers, Aboriginal rangers and the WorldWildlife Fund have been given funding by state and federal governments for a two-year project to tackle the problem.

However, initial hopes that chilli powder and red flags would work have been dashed, says the University of Queensland, which is leading the project.

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