Recent leatherback turtle sightings off the coast of Bundaberg have the scientific world excited, with no observations of the species nesting in Queensland for 25 years.
A picture of a leatherback turtle just 15 km northeast of Bundaberg, captured by local wildlife photographer Nev Swann, was shared by the Department of Environment and Science on Facebook.
It said the photo was one of three sightings of large leatherback turtles from whale watching tour vessels in just one week.
One of the sightings included a mating pair.
“There haven’t been any observations of nesting leatherback turtles in Queensland for 25 years, so this is a pretty big deal,” the Facebook post said.
“Seeing a mating pair offshore, and so close to what was the main nesting area in eastern Australia (Wreck Rock-Moore Park coast) gives us hope the east Australian nesting population may not be extinct.”
Nev has lived in the region for 30 years and spends much of his time outdoors and by the water taking photos but has never seen a leatherback turtle before the recent sightings.
“It was magic,” Nev said.
“It was the highlight of the day even though we got good whales.
“It was pretty special.”
Nev said renowned biologist and Department of Environment and Science Chief Scientific Officer Col Limpus had already been in contact and was excited about the sighting.
“Hopefully we’ll get some leatherbacks come up and lay this year,” Nev added.
“It’s going to be fun to keep an eye open for!”
The Department of Environment and Science is encouraging others to report sightings of leatherback turtles by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, ideally including the date it was seen, location coordinates, and any photos if possible.