Australia: Turtle season closes 5 Apr 2011

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By Scott Thompson

The 2010-2011 turtle season has proven to be a double-edged sword, with the best nesting season in 32 years contrasting with a sharp downturn in tourist numbers due to the persistent wet weather.

The Mon Repos Conservation Park has reported a significant increase in numbers for all species, but there has been a huge increase in loggerhead turtles in particular.

Ranger Shane O'Connor said about 480 loggerheads, two green and 11 flatback turtles had nested this season at Mon Repos.

“(The loggerhead figure) is fantastic,” Mr O'Connor said.

“We thought we might get a dip this year and it's kept going up.”

Mr O'Connor said the other piece of good news was that the Christmas floods did not have as much environmental impact as first thought.

“When the female turtles come to nest, they don't really worry about the weather, but because of the cooler temperatures it takes them a bit longer to produce the clutches of eggs, so that's dragged out a bit,” he said.

Unfortunately, the weather was not so kind on tourist numbers with visitor figures estimated, at this stage, to be about 21% down on last season.

“We missed out on the peak period due to the localised floods and then we got flooding all through the state and Cyclone Yasi, which deterred a lot of travellers,” Mr O'Connor said.

“We have to take each year as it comes.”

Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism manager James Corvan said tourist numbers had been strong and ahead of the previous year until the floods hit.

Mr Corvan said given the scale of the natural disaster, the drop in visitor numbers to Mon Repos “wasn't too bad in the circumstances”.

“We obviously lost time through the floods and the Bruce Highway was closed for two weeks in the peak of the season,” he said.

Despite the disappointing figures, Mr Corvan said the tourism body would continue to promote Mon Repos and the important role it played in conservation.

“The turtles kept coming, and in increasing numbers, so there's a great conservation story there,” he said.

“People should come see the turtles because it's a great environmental experience for them and we won't go away from that message.

“It's one of those wonderful experiences on a worldwide basis that we need to keep pushing.”

Mr Corvan said it was expected the tourism industry would bounce back from the temporary downturn, even if it took a little while.

“Things will come back – perhaps not fully this next year – but certainly over the next year or two,” he said.

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