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June 9th - Flatback Day

The flatback turtle is named after its flat carapace, or shell, which is unlike the curved shell of other sea turtle species. The carapace is pale grayish-green in color with the outer margins distinctly upturned. An adult flatback weighs 200 pounds and is approximately 3 feet in length. They have the smallest distribution of all the species and breed and nest only in Australia.

DISTRIBUTION

The flatback has the smallest geographic range of the seven sea turtle species. Their distribution is restricted to tropical regions of the continental shelf and coastal waters of Northern Australia, Southern Indonesia, and Southern Papua New Guinea. They do not have an oceanic phase or undertake long, open ocean migrations like other sea turtles, and are usually found in waters less than 200 feet in depth.

Breeding and nesting only occur in Australia with the largest concentration of females nesting on Crab Island in the NE Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland. Primary nesting beaches are distributed from East to West across Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia.

THREATS

Threats to this species include direct harvest for meat and eggs, entanglement in fishing gear, destruction of nesting beaches from coastal development, pollution, and destruction of feeding habitat (coral reefs and shallow nearshore areas). Dingos and foxes once posed a significant threat to their nests but thanks to predator control programs, this threat has been greatly reduced. Nests and hatchlings however are preyed upon by the Sand Monitor lizard, birds-including Night Herons and Pelicans, and feral pigs. In some areas, feral pigs consume almost all their nests.

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sample social media posts:

June 9th is Flatback Day! We’ll be highlighting this unique species and the threat of coastal development and recreation. Learn more here: www.seaturtleweek.com/flatback-day & @seaturtleweek #SeaTurtleWeek

Flatback turtles are found only around Australia and are the only species that their IUCN conservation status is unknown, though they are listed as vulnerable in Australia. Learn more about these mysterious turtles here: http://www.seeturtles.org/flatback-turtle #SeaTurtleWeek

The flatback sea turtle looks just like you would imagine! The species, quite literally, has a flat shell. Adult flatbacks can weigh as much as 200 pounds. #SeaTurtleWeek via @hsiglobal


Photo credit: Linda Reinhold