Unusually large numbers of dead and dying sea turtles are washing up on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef coast, prompting environmental groups to warn of a wildlife crisis in the region.
Researchers and local residents have reported that several Queensland beaches have been strewn with the carcasses of the animals, with wildlife centres in the northern city of Townsville inundated with ailing turtles.
According to the Queensland state government, 649 turtle deaths were reported in the first seven months of 2011, up 200 on the same period last year.
Dugongs are also suffering badly, with 96 of the aquatic mammals reported dead in the first seven months of the year, compared with 79 in the whole of 2010.
Sick and starving turtles have been observed approaching the shallows, where they invariably die. Researchers believe that a severe loss of sea grass, the turtles’ staple food source, is to blame for the escalating death toll.