Home' Traveller : Scoop Traveller WA 021 Contents 52 Scoop Traveller Januar y - June 2012
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• Sea turtles are reptiles and share common traits.
They generally live for a long time and are slow
to reach sexual maturity (it can take between 10
and 50 years for a turtle to begin to breed).
• The only time they leave the ocean is when the
adult females lay their eggs on beaches, and
occasionally to bask during the nesting season.
• The shell is known as a carapace
• Turtles must come to the surface to breathe
• They use their hard beaks to tear, crush and
chop their prey
• They have an acute sense of smell and well-
developed eyes with good colour vision, but a
poor sense of taste
• Specialised salt-excretion glands located in their
eyes help to remove excess salt ingested while
• Hearing is restricted to low frequencies
• A breeding ground or colony of turtles is referred
to as a rookery
• A gathering of mating turtles is known as
the baseline data gaps for this species, and its
findings are keenly awaited by world experts.
Heading south, the Ningaloo Turtle Program
in Exmouth is a community partnership
between DEC, the Cape Conservation Group,
Murdoch University and WWF Australia. The
award-winning initiative attracts local, national
and international volunteers learning skills such
as turtle tracking, GPS use, remote camping,
leadership and conservation. The Jurabi Turtle
Centre, an interpretive educational facility just
outside Exmouth is part of this program.
Gnaraloo Station, a wilderness tourism
business and pastoral station on the Ningaloo
coast between Carnarvon and Coral Bay, has
(since 2005) developed and managed the
scientific Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program
(GTCP). The Gnaraloo coastline is within the
newly declared Ningaloo World Heritage Area
and is home to significant sea turtle rookeries,
with loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles
nesting there from November to April annually.
With training by DEC, engagement
of Australian and international scientific
volunteers, and the community, plus the
specialised Gnaraloo Fox Control Program,
Gnaraloo is monitoring turtle breeding activities
along its coastline. This research is aided by
cutting-edge ArcGIS geographic information
system technology provided by Esri Australia.
The GTCP is making valuable contributions
to the limited amount of baseline data and
information on sea turtles along the Ningaloo
coast, establishing that the Gnaraloo Bay
Rookery is one of the two most significant
To secure the future for one of the world’s most
beloved creatures, it will take co-operative efforts
between governments, industry (mining, fishing,
tourism), private land holders, community groups,
Indigenous groups and individuals.
For more information on how to help, go to:
Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program on
Facebook; www.biosphere-expeditions.org; www.
dec.wa .gov.au/volunteerprograms; www.ecobeach.
com.au; www.conservationvolunteers.com.au; www.
aftcra.org.au; www.ningalooturtles.org.au; www.
turtleconservationfund.org; www.uwa .edu.au; www.
wwf.org.au; www.naragebup.org.au .
mainland rookeries for loggerheads in WA, and
that the Gnaraloo loggerheads are part of the
third largest loggerhead population in the world.
For the love of turtles
Environmental scientist Karen Hattingh is
the GTCP Project Manager. To avoid impacting
the Gnaraloo turtles, until the rookeries are
better understood, the GTCP is only monitoring
and interpreting tracks, not having contact
with the turtles, she says. “People always ask
how they can help the turtles. The first thing
to do is to leave them undisturbed by enjoying
and using the coast responsibly.”
The less obvious examples pose the greatest
long-term dangers, she adds. Noise, light
and vehicle movements from housing and
tourism developments near critically important
breeding beaches, and torchlight from people
walking in such areas, can scare off nesting
females, disorientate hatchlings trying to
reach the water and play havoc with the
turtles’ navigation system.
This is, of course, not a perfect world,
and humans are not the only problem.
Nature also intervenes, as recently seen
when five juvenile turtles washed up on Perth
beaches, hundreds of kilometres from their
It is believed the turtles – three loggerheads,
a green and one flatback – were pushed south
by the strong Leeuwin current. Fortunately,
DEC officers were able to release the young
castaways back into their natural environment
at Exmouth. ST
You don’t have to be a hardcore research scientist
to make a difference. Turtle conservation is as much
about what to do right, as about what not to do.
• Don’t go dune buggying and quad biking in known
turtle nesting areas.
• Don’t disturb aggregations of mating turtles in
the water or force resting turtles back into the
• Don’t go turtle watching armed with bright torches,
or noisily walk along nesting beaches.
• Don’t handle hatchlings and always adhere to advice
about responsible turtle watching. It’s also important,
as a community, to be very careful how and where we
build our coastal environments.
ISSUE turtle conservation
A male hawksbill turtle
If, like most people, you love turtles and want to help, donate to a research or conservation program, and
enquire about becoming a volunteer.
Suggest that the curriculum at your local school incorporates turtle conservation and that children
participate in field excursions and conservation programs. Petition your local member of parliament for
better funding programs for turtle research.
Dig deep and tread softly
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