An image of a woman floating in reef waters with sea turtles was quickly removed by Australia’s main tourism body after backlash online.
It showed the woman in a black swimsuit floating with about 30 protected sea turtles at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia after she went on board last week.
But the stunning photo was removed from Tourism Australia’s social media after it faced backlash from critics who said ‘mating turtles’ should be left alone.
The post was removed five days after it was inundated with 700 comments. Yahoo News Australia saying.
Wildlife advocates and photographers called out Tourism Australia for encouraging travelers to get up close and personal with vulnerable species such as sea turtles.
The social media post showed the woman in a black swimsuit posing with around 30 protected sea turtles at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and was uploaded by Tourism Australia last week.
Wildlife advocates and photographers urged Tourism Australia not to encourage travelers to get close to vulnerable species such as sea turtles (a sea turtle on Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia pictured)
“Why a government tourism agency would post a photo like this is beyond me,” said one commenter.
“We trust the government to protect wildlife and then they posted a photo like this.”
But the image inspired others to visit the idyllic spot.
‘Can we go here together?’ one commented, as they tagged a fellow traveller.
The bird’s-eye view image showed the woman lying on her back in shallow crystal blue water surrounded by turtles near a pristine sandy shoreline.
It was originally taken and posted last November by the Frame Chasers social media account.
The photo was taken at the same time as the turtles’ mating season.
The Tourism Australia caption stated that the Frame Chasers were “lucky enough to witness a turtle party” on a visit to Exmouth.
“These majestic sea creatures can be seen in this part of @westernaustralia year-round, but a visit between November and March will allow you to witness hatching and nesting,” it read.
“We recommend booking a guided turtle watching experience.”
But some pointed out that the turtles were most likely gathering to mate in the image and urged tourists not to be encouraged to approach them at that time.
USC marine scientist and PhD candidate Caitlin Smith said there were a variety of male and female turtles in the image that suggested they were breeding.
She said the turtles can be very stressed at this time and advised swimmers to stay away from the turtles while they are mating.
“Sea turtles are susceptible to disturbance during mating season,” said DBCA Marine Program Coordinator, Exmouth, Peter Barnes (pictured)
While the reptiles didn’t appear distressed in the photo, he was concerned that the image could lead others to try to take a selfie with the endangered species.
But he praised Tourism Australia for advising tourists to use guided tour options in their post.
The WA Department of Biodiversity and Conservation’s turtle watcher code of conduct says there are strict rules that protect turtles while they mate.
“Sea turtles are susceptible to disturbance during the mating season,” said Peter Barnes, DBCA Marine Program Coordinator, Exmouth.
“Anyone who encounters this natural phenomenon while in the water should stand back and observe from a practical distance so as not to disturb the animals.”
He added that there are signs at various stops along the Jurabi coast in the area where the photo was taken.
Wildlife biologist Ellie Sursara (pictured) said disrupting turtle nesting and breeding sites, even just for a photo, could discourage turtles from mating and laying eggs.
Ms Sursara added that the photo exceeds the bounds of Western Australia’s code of conduct for turtle tourists and Tourism Australia’s commitment to responsible travel (a turtle on Ningaloo Reef is pictured)
Wildlife biologist Ellie Sursara said disrupting turtle nesting and breeding sites, even just to take a photo, could discourage turtles from mating and laying eggs.
The enthusiastic photographer said it was important to keep a safe distance from where wild animals are.
“Knowing the rules is what helps me safely, responsibly and legally interact with wildlife,” he said.
He added that the photo exceeds the bounds of Western Australia’s code of conduct for turtle tourists and Tourism Australia’s commitment to responsible travel.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting that Frame Chasers has acted illegally or irresponsibly.
Frame Chasers and Tourism Australia were contacted by Daily Mail Australia for comment.
Western Australia Turtle Watchers Code of Conduct
There are three important stages in the reproductive process of sea turtles: mating, nesting, and hatching.
Guided turtle tours are recommended for those wishing to see nesting sea turtles.
Keep the distance recommended in the code of conduct.
Dogs should be kept away from turtle nesting beaches.
Do not touch or disturb turtles that are resting, sleeping, or mating.
Making unnecessary contact with turtles is a crime.
Litter can harm all marine life, including turtles.
The regulations prohibit vessels from discharging waste, including trash or sewage, within a marine park.
Source: Department of Conservation of Biodiversity and Attractions.
WHAT A FACE? FUN FACTS ABOUT SEA TURTLES:
- Six of the seven species of sea turtles inhabit Australian waters.
- They are part of a group of reptiles that have been around for over 100 million years.
- The largest and heaviest tortoise ever recorded weighed 914 kg and was nearly 9 feet long.
- Turtles have great cultural significance to many indigenous cultures.
- They maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs – commercially benefiting valuable species such as shrimp, lobster and tuna.
- The turtles use the Earth’s magnetic field like a global GPS, calculating their latitude and longitude to head in the right direction.