A decade of protecting Ningaloo’s turtles

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Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
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VideoA conservation program on the Ningaloo Coast is celebrating a decade of work protecting endangered turtles.

Loggerhead turtles nesting on the beaches of the Ningaloo Reef are migrating as far as Queensland to feed and mate.

A report released by the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation in July has given insight into the migratory habits of the endangered species, as well as the success of the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program in the past 10 years.

It found the program had saved more than 300,000 loggerhead turtle eggs from feral animals in the past eight years.

GWF principal scientific officer Karen Hattingh said geographic information system technology had been invaluable in monitoring turtles, foxes, feral cats and wild dogs.

“The GTCP has also satellite-tagged 12 Gnaraloo turtles to uncover, for the first time, their migratory routes and foraging grounds,” she said.

“Through mapping and analysing the data, we’ve discovered the turtles migrate north along the WA coastline and at times cross Northern Territory waters to Queensland waters.

“One of the report’s valuable findings was determining that after nesting, female loggerheads from Gnaraloo migrate thousands of kilometres to their foraging grounds in relatively quick times — in one case, swimming 4700km in just 41/2 months to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland waters.”

Ms Hattingh said $3.6 million had been raised for the Gnaraloo program in the past decade.

Esri Australia and South Asia group managing director Brett Bundock said the tracking technology helped to better understand and manage the dangers wildlife faced from predators and human activity.

“Inventive spatial thinking is changing our world,” he said. “Today, it’s helping conservation of the loggerhead turtle.

“Tomorrow, it could be the black cockatoo, greater bilbies, spotted-tail quolls or the great Tasmanian devils.”

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