Quad bikes disturbing turtle habitat recorded by photographer in Far North Queensland

A wildlife photographer says he was defending a vital turtle nesting habitat when he was allegedly charged at by a motorbike rider on a beach in Far North Queensland yesterday.

Local resident Russell Constable captured footage of the incident involving himself and three people at Bramston Beach, south of Cairns.

It shows a young man in a singlet pushing Mr Constable with his hands before mounting a dirt bike and driving directly at Mr Constable.

A man and woman who were part of the group appeared to be trying to de-escalate the situation by restraining their friend and asking Mr Constable to leave.

The local photographer said he was extremely shaken by the incident, which was reported to police.

“When someone charges you with a motorbike and actually hits you hard enough to bust one of Canon’s toughest cameras, I would consider that to be the worst by far.”

Mr Bramston said the incident escalated when he began photographing the riders to document the use of quad bikes on the beach, which is prohibited.

“They asked what I was doing and I explained that vehicles aren’t meant to be on the beach,” he said.

“I took the threats very seriously.”

Police attended the scene when Mr Constable’s wife made a call to emergency services yesterday afternoon.

Mr Constable says he has been documenting illegal vehicle use in the area and providing it to authorities for years.(Supplied: Russell Constable)

Expert says baby turtles at risk

Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre director Jennie Gilbert said the ongoing use of quad bikes on Bramston Beach was extremely concerning.

“It’s a vital turtle nesting habitat. It’s a large nesting area for turtles to come up,” she said.

Ms Gilbert said quad bike use over time compacted the sand, making it hard for mother turtles to crawl up the beach to nest.

“And when those turtles — those little eggs — are ready to hatch, if they’ve got compacted sand some of them just don’t get through,” she said.

“They just die in the nest, they just don’t get up to the surface.

She said quad bikes had been an ongoing issue for a number of years on beaches in Far North Queensland, including Bramston and Cowley, further south.

Some young men on quad bikes and a motorbike riding on a beach
Quad bikes can compact sand and make it difficult for baby turtles to get through to the surface.(Supplied: Russell Constable)

Environmental degradation concerns

Mr Constable, who has received an award from Conservation Queensland for his advocacy work, said police, the council and other government agencies needed to come together to tackle the issue.

“It’s been ongoing for a decade,” he said.

He said he had provided extensive documentation of illegal vehicle use and camping in the area over a number of years, but it had not been resolved.

“What we’re seeing, especially at the northern end of the beach, is environmental degradation,” he said.

“No one group is taking responsibility.

“I’d like to see a unified effort … all of these groups get together around the table and come up with a management plan.”

Queensland Police, Cairns Regional Council and the Environment Department have been contacted for comment.

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