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Endangered Leatherback Turtles

By Diane Oxenford

Our South East Queensland Leatherbacks are functionally extinct. Dr Col Limpus (Mon Repos Conservation Research Park)  believes there are between 12 and 15 living in our SEQ waters but they have not nested on our beaches in the past 20 years.  If we don’t act now, all that will remain of these majestic ancient mariners will be artists’ images of them. 

An artist’s representation of the spirit of a leatherback

An artist’s representation of the spirit of a leatherback

Juvenile Leatherback Turtle that Washed up on Woorim Beach in 2008

Juvenile Leatherback Turtle that Washed up on Woorim Beach in 2008

“Leatherbacks lay their eggs on five continents, but in the Pacific Ocean, their numbers have declined from 90,000 nesting females in 1980 to fewer than 5,000 in 2004.” 
Source: SEA TURTLES, A Complete Guide to their Biology, Behaviour, and Conservation. By James R. Spotila. 

“As few as 2,300 adult females now remain, making the Pacific Leatherback the world’s most endangered marine turtle population.”
Source: WWF, etc.

However, with research and advocacy from scientists and groups around the world, such as Turtle Island Restoration Network and international political will and cooperation, it is hoped the world’s endangered marine turtles will make a comeback within the 21st century.

The following is taken from the March newsletter of Turtle Island Restoration Network

Turtle Island Restoration Network

[VICTORY] Company Abandons Controversial Sand Mining Venture on Leatherback Nesting Beach 

A Singaporean sand mining company withdrew its application for a sand mining exploration license permit across 51 kilometers of protected habitat for endangered leatherback sea turtles. The decision follows pushback from grassroots efforts headed by Mas Kagin Tapani Association (MAKATA), an environmental nonprofit based in Papua New Guinea, which has led efforts to protect critically endangered leatherback turtles. Niugini Sands Limited’s proposal to mine black sand beaches in the Madang Province would have eliminated critical nesting habitat, pushing endangered leatherbacks closer to extinction and leading to catastrophic effects on the entire marine ecosystem and the livelihoods of local communities.
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