In Australia the hard-shelled marine turtles are largely found in the tropical and subtropical waters of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. The leatherback is regularly found in the waters of temperate Australia. All species are protected under State/Territory and Commonwealth legislation however some of these jurisdictions allow the taking of turtles for licensed scientific research, educational pursuits and for traditional subsistence use by people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. Queensland legislation prohibits the taking of marine turtles for commercial purposes. The Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 provides protection for marine turtles, listing them as an endangered and vulnerable species.
recent years turtle numbers have been steadily declining due to faunal
predation and will soon reach a point where the recovery and
continuation of the species may not be possible. Introduced and native
fauna is known to prey upon marine turtle eggs. Feral pigs, foxes,
feral dogs, dingoes, bandicoots and goannas have been identified as
predators on marine turtle eggs in parts of mainland Australia where
nesting sites occur.
Choquenot et.al. (1996) recognised that the major environmental impacts of feral pigs are predation on native species and habitat degradation. Feral pigs are responsible for high levels of nest predation on nesting beaches used by flat-back turtles particularly on Cape York Peninsula (CYP).
Cape York Weeds and Feral Animal Program (CYWAFAP) in conjunction with Ian Bell (EPA Senior Conservation Officer Turtle research) have identified strategic areas along the west coast of CYP to undertake control of feral pigs. The area from Dyfken Point to the Skardon River north of Weipa has been identified as a critical nesting habitat for three species of turtle. They are the Olive Ridley (endangered), Hawks Bill (critically endangered) and Flat Back (vulnerable). Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is upwards of 100% predation on nests by feral pigs within sections of this area.
In July 2006 CYWAFAP in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources, Mines, Water and local Land & Sea Rangers plan undertook feral pig control along the west coast of Cape York targeting areas around turtle nesting sites to reduce the impacts of feral pigs on the turtle nests.
Since the marine turtle conservation program started in June 2006 approximately 28,000 feral pigs have been destroyed in control programs along the west coast of Cape York. Predation levels have been reduced by pig control efforts to 30% in areas which previously had 90% predation.
Results from the program show a decrease in nest predation by feral pigs and a significant increase in the amount of turtle hatchlings reaching the water.