Kakadu National Park

Wednesday 17 July 2019

The flatback turtle is Australia’s only endemic marine turtle.

It nests on Field Island (Gardangal) and a few beaches near West Alligator Head (Waldak Irrmbal).

Adults can measure up to a metre in length and weigh in at around 90 kg.

Where to see it

Flatback turtles live in shallow, soft-bottomed sea beds and can sometimes be seen basking in the sun on the ocean’s surface.

Behaviour

Flatback turtles feed on soft corals and animals such as jellyfish.

They can travel as far as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to feed, but only lay their eggs on a handful of sandy northern Australian beaches. Female flatbacks lay approximately 50 eggs per nest.

Conservation

A critical flatback turtle nesting site is Field Island (Gardangal), on Kakadu’s northern coast.

Every year teams of Kakadu staff and traditional owners camp on the island for three weeks to study flatback turtles as they come ashore to nest.

These studies help us understand the turtles’ movements and monitor the effects of climate change and other threats. Our research shows that the population of female turtles that continually return to the island is stable.

Other names

  • Scientific name: Natator depressus