Turtle trackers reveal mysterious flatbacks' lives

LONG JOURNEY: A couple of flatback turtle hatchlings have made it 100km away in a fortnight.
LONG JOURNEY: A couple of flatback turtle hatchlings have made it 100km away in a fortnight. Contributed

CRUISING along in the East Australian Current looks like a hell of a good time in Finding Nemo.

But James Cook University's Associate Professor Mark Hamman said baby flatback turtles he was tracking hadn't been tempted to join in.

Data from last week showed a couple of the 30 hatchlings released from the Whitsundays on May 22 were 100km up the coast, while others were 20-30km away in the Whitsundays.

"They could have caught the EAC (the East Australian Current)," he said.

"Yes, like on Finding Nemo.

"But I was pretty sure they would stay in the Whitsundays.

"I was surprised to see a few make it so far north."

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The data transmitted every three days by satellite from 9g GPS trackers glued to the turtle's carapace was the first to shed light on the baby flatback's life history.

"Flatbacks are the species we know least about," Prof Hamman said.

"We think they prefer deep water and muddy lagoons."

The study only became possible when tiny tracking devices were designed about two years ago.

But Prof Hannam still thought they would only stay on for about two months before falling off.

"It will help us understand their biology and threats," he said.

The turtles were first collected from Blacks Beach with the help of local Mackay and Districts Turtle Watch Association Inc.

Member Fay Griffin said being part of the study was 'certainly exciting'.

"When they hatched they had to run across the beach, so they had the magnetic imprint of the beach to return in the future," she said.

"So Mark collected them just as they reached the water."

Topics:  animals environment mackay marine turtles

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