The Heron Island turtles


UQ digital content producer Matthew Taylor and senior communications officer Katie Rowney travelled to Heron Island with a team of researchers to learn more about the island's diverse wildlife. Read the first in this series here.

An evening walk around the island during November through to March turns up more than seaweed and sand. Visitors have to dodge large turtles making their way to up past the high-tide mark to lay their eggs. Resort guests and researchers spot the tell-tale trails of the turtles in the sand and settle in to watch them dig out a large body-pit and lay their eggs.

Turtle tracks
Turtle tracks at sunrise - photo by Katie Rowney

It’s a far cry from the 1920s, when Heron Island was best known for its turtle soup cannery. The cannery was converted into a resort in the early 1930s, with turtle-watching a big drawcard for tourists. Researchers also travel from around the world to observe these old souls of the ocean in their natural habitat.

A turtle swimming on the reef at Heron Island
A Green Turtle swims with reef fish near Heron Island - photo courtesy of The University of Queensland

From January to June the turtle hatchlings can be seen scurrying down the beach. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service volunteers patrol the beaches to make sure enthusiastic tourists don’t hurt the hatchlings’ chances of survival by picking them up or obstructing their paths. UQ honours student Chelsea Waters spent a season protecting the tiny turtles, later returning to the island to study the effects of climate change on solitary coral polyps.

video by Matthew Taylor, footage by Matthew Taylor and Matthew Petersen
Last updated:
11 April 2016