Flatback; Chelonée à dos plat, tortue marine à dos plat (Fr); Tortuga franca oriental (Sp)
Approx. 10,000 nesting females
IUCN: Data Deficient CITES: Appendix I
A sedentary turtle
These turtles prefer shallow, soft-bottomed sea bed habitats that are far from reefs. They only very rarely leave the shallow waters of the continental shelf, and nest only in northern Australia, where beaches on small offshore islands are the most important sites. This is in stark contrast to the behaviour of all other marine turtle species, except for Kemp's ridley.
The flatback has a flat body and smooth carapace (shell) with upturned edges. It is also recognized by a single pair of prefrontal scales at the front of the head, and 4 pairs of costal scutes on the carapace.
Adults flatbacks may reach 90kg and up to 1m in length.
The carapace of this turtle is yellow-grey or a green-grey, while the plastron (underside) is usually pale yellow.
The nesting season runs from October to February in Queensland's Northern Territory, but may extend to the entire year in Northwestern Australia. Flatbacks can nest up to 4 times in a season, and the interval between each nesting event may be anywhere between 13 and 18 days. An average of 50 eggs are laid each time.
The flatback turtle is predominantly carnivorous, feeding on squid, sea cucumbers, soft corals, and mollusks.
Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea
Southern Australian Marine, Western Australia Marine, Great Barrier Reef
What are the main threats?
- Habitat loss and degradation
- Wildlife trade
- Collection of eggs and meat for consumption
- Incidental capture (bycatch)
- Climate change
Flatbacks are also threatened by predation by foxes, feral dogs and pigs and more recently the occurence of green turtle fibropapillomatosis. Its restricted range means that the flatback is extremely vulnerable to habitat loss, especially of breeding sites, but the most serious threat appears to be incidental catch by fishing vessels operating in the area.
What is WWF doing?
- Action to address the impacts of climate change
- Monitoring the migration patterns of marine turtles
- Improving and supporting trade controls
- Protecting nesting sites
- Reducing bycatch and promoting smart fishing
How you can help
- Send a turtle to rehab! Help the recuperation process for thousands of sick and injured turtles.
- Spread the word! Click on the button to share this information with others via email or your favourite social networking service.