Department of Parks adn Wildlife

What is a green turtle? The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) is a large and attractive marine turtle that spends almost its entire life at sea. However, during the summer months, the females come ashore to nest on some mainland beaches and many offshore islands of northern Australia. It is one of only six marine turtle species found in Western Australia, and they are all threatened. In the past, the animal was boiled up into soup and its fat was green, which is the reason for its name. Australia, along with 115 other countries, has now banned the import or export of products form marine turtles.

Vision courtesy of MIRG Australia ( Office Productions

What does it look like? The heart-shaped shell of the green turtle is light to dark green with grey mottling. Adults reach about a metre long and weigh from 100 to 125 kilograms.

Graphic : Location Map of Green Turtles in Western Australia Where does it live? The green turtle is found in all of the world's tropical and warm-temperate oceans. Green turtles are quite often seen in northern WA in areas such as Ningaloo Marine Park, Shark Bay Marine Park, the proposed Dampier Archipelago Marine Park, Lalang-garram / Camden Sound Marine Park and sometimes also in the waters of southern areas such as Marmion and Shoalwater Islands marine parks and even as far south-east as King George Sound in Albany.

What they eat and how: Unlike other marine turtles, which are carnivores, adult green turtles are vegetarian, grazing on seagrasses or seaweeds. Immature green turtles are carnivorous and feed on jellyfish, small shellfish, crustaceans and sponges.

Threats: People pose the biggest threats to the green turtle. Green turtles have been drastically overharvested in most parts of the world. In WA, a legal fishery operated until the licences were cancelled and full legal protection was applied in 1973. Many turtles were taken from the North West Cape area (adjacent to what is now Ningaloo Marine Park) and from the Montebello Islands, which are now surrounded by a marine park. Hatchlings become confused by lights near the beach and may not make it to the sea.

Breeding and caring for young: Female turtles only breed once every six years or so. At mating time, males cluster around and compete for individual females, which inevitably breed with more than one male. Within a short time, the female lays her first parchment-shelled eggs on the beach, repeating this every fortnight up to six or even eight times. The sex of the hatchlings depends on the temperature in the nest – hatchlings on the warmer northern beaches are mostly females, but hatchlings that emerge from beaches further south are mostly male. The hatchlings dig their way out of their nests and journey to the sea from January to April. Crawling the short distance between the nest and the sea is a dangerous journey and huge numbers of the youngsters are killed and eaten by foxes, silver gulls and birds of prey on the way.

Conservation status: The green turtle is protected in Australian waters under State, Commonwealth and international legislation. It is listed as vulnerable under WA legislation. Its international status is endangered.

Green Turtle

How you can protect the green turtle: If you find a turtle please give it the respect it deserves. Don’t ride it or disturb it as it searches for a nesting place. If it has a tag, note the number and contact the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, who conducts turtle tagging in association with Aboriginal traditional owners and numerous volunteers at important nesting beaches throughout WA. Your find will add to our knowledge of these creatures. The information that is collected is used to better manage and protect WA’s populations of green turtles. Very young turtles are often swept south in winter storms and may be washed up on the beaches of Perth and other parts of the south-west. If you find one please contact the Wildcare Helpline so a wildlife officer can take the turtle to an experienced wildlife carer (they need warm, fresh salty water and a specialised diet). If you find a dead marine turtle, please report it to the Wildcare Helpline or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..