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to the Murchison River (mainly loggerhead
turtles). DEC is also responsible for balancing
conservation with the rights of remote
Indigenous communities. Sea turtles,
particularly green turtles, have played an
important role in the cultural, spiritual and
economic lives of these communities for
thousands of years.
South of Ningaloo Reef towards Shark Bay,
there are DEC monitoring and conservation
programs underway at large green, hawksbill
and loggerhead turtle nesting sites.
These turtles are likely to breed and nest
from October to February, when the climate is
warmer and more conducive to nesting and, as
such, they can be seen mating in the shallows
at Shark Bay and the surrounding estuaries.
Watch and learn
DEC runs volunteer programs across a range of
marine study areas, with many private turtle
monitoring and conservation projects also
relying on volunteers to help researchers gather
essential baseline data.
In 2008, Conservation Volunteers Australia
(CVA) began monitoring flatback turtles that
nest on Eco Beach near Broome. Flatback
turtles, named after the shape of their shell,
can grow to a metre long and weigh 100-
125kg. Monitoring has become a full-time
program designed to track turtles throughout
their mating cycles and record data as to their
breeding and travelling habits.
This program relies heavily on the work of
volunteers, with CVA sending six to 10 to the
site from October to January.
They help staff with assessing the turtles’
nesting habits, exhuming nests, counting the
number of eggs in each nest, cordoning off
parts of the beach to visitors and recording
the length and weight of some turtles before
attaching monitors. Also active at Eco Beach
is Biosphere Expeditions, a global non-profit
environmental research program. The joint
venture between Eco Beach Resort, CVA and
Biosphere Expeditions collects important data
on the comings and goings of the flatback
turtles. Participants divide their time between
resort life and environmental research.
Dr Matthias Hammer, Biosphere
Expeditions’ founder, says research into turtle
habits is in its infancy, and those who join the
team are at the cutting edge of environmental
discovery. “The aim of our WA project is to
determine flatback turtle nesting numbers,
and how far dispersed this genetic population
is along the seashore of WA.” The project’s
actions will go a long way towards filling in
“Research into turtle habits is in its infancy, and
volunteers are at the cutting edge of environmental
discovery” - Dr Matthias Hammer, Biosphere Expeditions founder
Sea turtles plod towards the ocean. RIGHT A golden ghost crab
– these crabs eat turtle eggs and hatchlings (Photography by John
Michael Stuart for the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program).
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