This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
Excessive sea turtle nest predation is a problem for conservation management of sea turtle populations. This study assessed the predation of the endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta ) nests at the Wreck Rock beach adjacent to Deepwater National Park in Southeast Queensland, Australia after a control program for feral foxes was instigated. The presence of predators on the nesting dune was evaluated by passive soil plots (2 x 1 m) every 100m along the dune front. There were 21 (2014-2015) and 41 (2015-2016) plots established along the dune and these were monitored for predator tracks daily over three consecutive months in both nesting seasons. Camera traps were also set to record the predator’s activity around selected nests. The tracks of the fox (Vulpes vulpes ) and goanna (lace monitor Varanus varius and/or yellow-spotted goanna V. panoptes; we could not distinguish these two species tracks from each other) were found on sand plots. Goannas were widely distributed along the beach and had an eight times higher Passive Activity Index (PAI) (0.31 in 2014-2015 and 0.16 in 2015-2016) compared to foxes (PAI 0.04 in 2014-2015 and 0.02 in 2015-2016). Camera trap data indicated that the appearance of yellow-spotted goannas at loggerhead turtle nests was more frequent than lace monitors and further that lace monitors only predated these nests after they had been previously opened by yellow-spotted goannas. No foxes were recorded at nests with camera traps. This study suggests that large male yellow-spotted goannas are the major predator of sea turtle nests at the Wreck Rock beach nesting aggregation.