Loggerhead 'STAr' shines new light on her foraging journey

Issued: 1 Mar 2023

Ranger attaching tracker to loggerhead turtleOpen larger image

QPWS rangers safely attached the tracker to STAr's shell.

Team members with the loggerhead turtleOpen larger image

The Sea Turtle Alliance sponsored the loggerhead turtle's tracking device.

Loggerhead turtle entering the seaOpen larger image

STAr travelled almost the entire length of K'gari in just 7 days

A female loggerhead turtle carrying a tracking device has provided valuable insights into the secret lives of these endangered marine animals as they forage and breed off the Wide Bay coast.

The 50-year-old nesting turtle was named STAr by the Sea Turtle Alliance who sponsored the tracking project for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS).

Excitingly, STAr has provided brand new insights into where loggerhead turtles are foraging.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife (QPWS) research officers have discovered that STAr likes to stay local, with her foraging ground in the southern Great Sandy Straight, migrating 125km, or almost the entire length of K’gari (Fraser Island) in just seven days.

Between 5 February and 12 February, STAr travelled from the Port of Bundaberg all the way down to Tin Can Bay; a journey that would usually take people about two-and-a-half hours by car.

For the past 20 years, STAr has regularly visited Mon Repos beach near Bundaberg to nest and has successfully laid 24 clutches of eggs over 6 breeding seasons at the conservation park.

Late last month, community group Sea Turtle Alliance sponsored a satellite telemetry device which was safely attached to STAr’s shell by research officers to track her movements off the coast.

Tracking marine wildlife movements provides QPWS with valuable insights into behaviour and migration patterns, which helps inform conservation policies and recovery actions.

Mon Repos QPWS Ranger in Charge Cathy Gatley said the QPWS worked closely with volunteers, including the Sea Turtle Alliance, to monitor sea turtles that come to the protected beach to nest.

“STAr is one of our regular loggerheads seen here at Mon Repos and was a good candidate for receiving a tracker because she’s survived to adulthood and we wanted to know where her safe home feeding ground was located,” Ms Gatley said.

“We’re thankful for the ongoing support from Sea Turtle Alliance, including the sponsorship of STAr’s  tracking device, to help inform conservation efforts of our marine turtles.

“In the past, data from tracking devices have shown turtles to travel long distances in their migrations from their home feeding area to their nesting beach.

“We’ve seen migration journeys from places such as Moreton Bay and as far north as the Gulf of Carpentaria, but STAr’s recent movements have been unique in that this is the first time we’ve tracked a turtle migrating home after finishing her nesting, to the southern Sandy Straits.”

Mon Repos supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region.

The success of nesting and hatching turtles at Mon Repos is critical for the survival of the endangered loggerhead turtle.

Every year between November and March, hundreds of marine turtles make their way to Mon Repos to lay their eggs, with hatchlings emerging towards the end of the season.

Learn more about the Mon Repos Turtle Centre and tours.