18.01.2022

Rare albino green turtle hatchling spotted on Australian beach

An extremely rare albino green turtle has been spotted on an Australian beach, but conservationists fear its chances of survival are “very, very slim” as the hatchling has limited sight and is more visible to predators.

The turtle was seen making its way out to sea from Lady Elliot Island, a coral cay located at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, this week.

Around one in every 100,000 turtle hatchlings are estimated to be albino, but there are even fewer fully grown, adults.

“These little guys, they struggle to get out of the nest and if they do they’re not well suited to the environment,” said Jim Buck, Lady Elliot Island’s ecosystem management officer.

“We would normally expect about one in 1,000 hatchlings to return as an adult but in this instance, its chances would be very, very slim,” he told Australia’s ABC News.

Conservationists working on Lady Elliot Island – around 50 miles off the coast of Queensland – have been collecting data during the turtle nesting season, between November and March, monitoring turtle tracks, nests and hatchling numbers.

They believe the green turtle population in the Southern Great Barrier Reef area has increased by 3 to 4 per cent in recent years.

In a post on Instagram, the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort said: “Current estimates of survivorship of hatchlings maturing to adulthood are about one in 1,000.

“Unfortunately, the success rate of this little one is also further reduced due to low sight and the inability to camouflage.”

Albinism is a genetic condition where there is little or no production of melanin, the pigment that colours the skin, hair and eyes – or fur, feathers or scales.

Mr Buck added: “It’s not something that we see walking down the beach regularly.

”I believe there have been one or two observed here at Lady Elliot in the past, but it’s not something we see regularly.

“The amount of melanin in the system dictates the colour of the animal and in this particular instance the animal was white or pink in colour, indicating that melanin was absent or very, very low.”

Alby the albino turtle

In 2016, an albino hatchling was spotted in a green turtle nest on Castaways Beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

”He was beautiful, you could see his flippers were pink, like the blood flowing,“ a local resident said at the time.

”I just hope he survives out in the big sea. He was very fast, very keen to get in the water.“

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