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The Experience: Committed To Conservation

Discovering the turtles of Moreton Island

By | Wildlife, Blog

Discovering the turtles of Moreton Island

Wildlife
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The Moreton Bay region is one of the few places in the world where turtles can be found so close to a major city. Five species of sea turtle can be spotted year-round, including green, loggerhead, flatback, Pacific ridley and hawksbill turtle.

Who’s Who Of The Sea

Green Turtle chelonia mydas

Distinguishing features: Large, teardrop-shaped shell which comes in a variety of colours including black, brown, yellow and olive.

Loggerhead Turtle caretta caretta

Distinguishing features: Large reddish-brown shell and a short, oversized log-like head.

Flatback Turtle natator depressus

Distinguishing features: Sleek, pale grey-green, flat shell.

Hawksbill Turtle eretmochelys imbricata

Distinguishing features: Narrow pointed beak with a unique tortoiseshell coloured shell pattern that creates a serrated edge towards the back.

Olive ridley turtle (Pacific ridley) lepidochelys olivacea

Distinguishing features: Broad, olive-green shell with an oversized head.

From sand to sea, and back again.

Queensland boasts one of the largest populations of sea turtles in the world. During November-March, turtles return to their birthplace to breed. Female turtles make their way onto the shore and create up to seven nests of eggs underneath the sand. The summer heat warms the temperature of the sand and predicts the gender of the hatchlings; cooler for males and warmer for females. The eggs incubate for up to eight weeks before they hatch and the baby turtles begin their journey into the ocean.

Sadly, you won’t see any turtle babies on your Moreton Island tour; however, there is a high chance you will spot a turtle or two as they explore the coral reefs of the Tangalooma Wrecks. Many of the turtles you will see are in their teenage years.

The ancient mariners of the sea

Turtles have wandered the ocean for more than 120 million years and have earned the nickname of ‘Ancient Mariner’ rightly so. The average lifespan of a sea turtle is between 50-80 years old, with some known to live up to 100 years old.

Scientists are still unsure of the journey of the sea turtle and where they adventure during their time in the ocean. Turtles won’t come to land until they reach the breeding age of 30. From this age, they return to their birthplace to lay their eggs. In a vast ocean, how do they know where their original home is? During their time in the nest, hatchlings develop a form of GPS to which they use to find their way home.

A smorgasbord of jellyfish and seagrass

Sea turtles eat an array of underwater cuisine, all depending on the shape of their beak. Green turtles’ serrated beak makes it easy to munch through seagrass and jellyfish, whereas loggerhead turtles have a strong, curved beak which allows them to crunch on crabs and sea urchins. Hawksbill turtles, like their name, have a bird-like beak which helps them pick at sponge growing in coral reefs. Turtles have a razor-sharp sense of smell which allows them to locate food in murky water.

Three for the sea

Unfortunately, over the next few decades, sea turtles are at risk of becoming endangered or extinct. Pollution and litter are significant threats to their livelihood, as turtles cannot tell the difference between jellyfish and plastic bags floating in the ocean. Scientists have predicted that the loggerhead turtle may become extinct in forty years based on their rapidly declining population numbers.

Our favourite motto our crew lives by is ‘Take Three For The Sea‘. Rubbish on our streets ends up in waterways that eventually run out into the ocean. The piece of trash you walk past on your daily commute, if left, will end up in the sea and potentially risk the life of its inhabitants. You can help stop the pollution in our oceans by picking up three pieces of rubbish each day. If everyone on Earth picked up even one piece of litter a day, that would equate to 27.1 billion pieces saved from the sea each year. A little can go a long way.

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Hawksbill Turtle: Fotosearch/Fotosearch/Getty Images

Want to see these ancient creatures for yourself? Purchase your ticket for a See Moreton Dolphin and Tangalooma Wrecks Tour.

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By | Blog, Uncategorized, Wildlife

Dolphins at Moreton Island (Mulgumpin)

Wildlife
Meet the Locals

Moreton Island (Mulgumpin) is a nature lover’s dream destination. Not only does it boast sparkling, turquoise waters, but is home to an abundance of wildlife. Various species of turtles, dugongs, and fish can be discovered all around the island. One of the most common and popular marine life you will find is the dolphin. With a bountiful population of over 700 individuals in the region, it marks one of the largest groupings of the curious mammal in the world.

Why do dolphins love Moreton Island?

Moreton Bay Marine Park consists of protected waters, meaning it is a safe space for dolphin populations to thrive. Dolphins breed throughout the year and usually give birth in late summer. Keep an eye out for baby dolphins or ‘calves’ on your tour.

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What dolphins will I see?

Two dolphin species call the waters of Moreton Island home; the Australian humpback dolphin and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin. You are most likely to see the bottlenose dolphin on your tour, distinguished by its dark grey, sleek body and a curved dorsal fin that sits at the centre of its back. Australian humpback dolphins are less common, but not unlikely, to find on your tour. They are identifiable by their humped back, light grey body, and long beak.

Dolphins and people

Bottlenose dolphins love people and can be found swimming between the boats and may even say hello during your snorkelling experience. The Bay has been an important and historical site for dolphins and local Aboriginal groups such as the Quandamooka People. The first nations people would call the dolphins from the sea by clicking their boomerangs and spears. The dolphins would herd the fish into the shore, allowing the people to hunt what they needed, leaving the rest for the dolphins.

Did you know that the Quandamooka word for dolphin is ‘Buwangan’?

Australian humpback dolphin

Sousa sahulensis

Colour: Light grey on their upper-dorsal and white underbelly

Size: Grow up to 2.7m in length and weigh up to 200kg.

Moreton Island population: Less than 200

Distinguishing features: Hump on their back where a small dorsal fin sits. Long beak that protrudes out of the water.

Diet: Opportunistic feeders that feed close to the ocean floor. Prey on fish and have been seen to follow trawler boats.

Location: Found in the northern waters of Australia beginning at the NSW-QLD border.

There are less than 200 Australian humpback dolphins in the Moreton Bay region, representing one of the largest congregations in the world. Despite the high numbers at Moreton Island, they are listed as a vulnerable species. The area around the Port of Brisbane is part of their core habitat, and you will often see them at the mouth of the Brisbane river on your departure and/or arrival.

The Australian Humpback Dolphin is a shy species, keeping to itself rather than interacting with humans. They love to play with seaweed, shells, jellyfish, along with each other.

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Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin

Tursiops aduncus

Colour: Dark grey on the upper-dorsal side and light grey to white on their underbelly

Size: Grow up to 2.5m in length and weigh up to 250kg.

Moreton Island population: 700

Distinguishing features: Sleek body, short beak, and curved dorsal fin.

Diet: Fish, octopus, squid, crustaceans, and small rays. Often seen following trawler boats.

Location: Found all over Australia

Bottlenose dolphins are very social creatures and have been seen in pods of up to 100 individuals. Moreton Bay is home to approximately 700 bottlenose dolphins, making them the most common species you will see on your See Moreton tour. Females travel with other females in pods of up to 20 individuals, whereas males tend to stick close together with at least four other males.

The Moreton Bay bottlenose dolphin population is divided into two groupings: Non-trawler dolphins that are found close to shore in shallow water, hanging around seagrass meadows; and trawler dolphins are found farther from shore, hanging around trawler boats chasing the daily catch.

Did you know that the different pods of bottlenose dolphins at Moreton Island tend to only interact and bond with dolphins who have the same foraging techniques as each other? You won’t see non-trawler dolphins mingling with trawler dolphins.

Bottlenose dolphins are known for their curious personalities and playful behavior such as leaping, surfing, and tail slapping. Keep an eye out on the front of the boat as they love to ride the bow!

Now you know everything there is about our beloved Moreton Island dolphins, it’s time to see them for yourself. We see dolphins on 92% of our tours. Book your See Moreton Dolphin and Tangalooma Wrecks tour today!

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