Turtle visitors to Far North beaches

Department of Conservation —  23/01/2014

By Denice Gillespie, Partnerships Ranger, Kaitaia

Last year we had some interesting visitors on the shores of the Far North beaches. Five turtles were found washed up: two olive ridley turtles and three green turtles.

We usually have reports of turtles in the Far North, but they are getting more frequent.

Rob Bennie of Kiwi Carpentry with a large olive ridley turtle.

Rob Bennie of Kiwi Carpentry fashioned a shipping crate for a sick olive ridley turtle

“Which makes us think why?”

The majority of the turtles that are reported to DOC are in poor condition. Their shells are covered with algae and goose barnacles, which indicate that they have been floating on the surface for some time and would have been unable to dive for food.

Turtles are prone to ingesting plastic, because they forage in areas where you get accumulations of marine debris. Floating plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish or seaweed. Eating this rubbish causes blockages in their digestive tract, which contributes to starvation and buoyancy.

Turtle and two tamariki/children on the beach.

Children investigate a turtle found on a Far North beach

Turtle eating a plastic bag.

Turtles are prone to ingesting plastic

“What can we do?”

The simple answer to this is to be “tidy kiwis” and to make sure that you reduce, reuse and recycle where possible.

Take part in local beach clean ups and make sure you follow proper boat waste disposal practices.

Join a conservation group today and help make a difference for our turtle friends, there are plenty of conservation groups to get involved with.

A sick turtle found on a Far North beach.

A sick turtle found by DOC staff

So, when your next exploring the beach keep an eye out for our turtle friends and be sure to report sick or injured wildlife, or whale or dolphin standings’ on the DOC Hotline, 0800 362 468.