Funding cut leaves loggerhead turtles vulnerable

Shannon BeattiePilbara News
Loggerhead hatchlings making their way to the ocean at the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery.
Camera IconLoggerhead hatchlings making their way to the ocean at the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery. Credit: Supplied/Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program

Loggerhead turtles in the Gnaraloo area, south of Exmouth, have been left vulnerable to predators after a pioneering 10-year conservation program had its Federal and State government funding pulled.

The Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program and Feral Animal Control Program had been run by the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation since 2008, but stopped in the 2018/19 financial year due to a lack of funding.

Over the 10 years the Federal Government committed more than $1.2 million to the two programs, while the State contributed about $55,000.

The Gnaraloo Station Trust, a pastoral station, also provided almost $2 million but pulled their support after the two governments decided to end their commitment.

GWF chairwoman Karen Hattingh said based on their results from 2008 to 2010, the data gathered proved foxes were taking out almost 100 per cent of the turtle eggs in Gnaraloo Bay.

“However, from 2010 to 2018 we were able to reduce that almost entirely and save 300,000 eggs from predation,” she said.

Ms Hattingh said she believed the Federal Government pulled its funding because the politics of the country at the moment doesn’t support scientific baseline work.

“The issue with these long running scientific programs is they come up with difficult answers that don’t suit development purposes,” she said.

“The easiest way to stop difficult answers coming in is to stop the funding and stop the work being done on the ground in the first place.”

A spokesman for the Federal Environment Minister said the Government was committed to the conservation of the Gnaraloo loggerhead turtle rookeries in the Ningaloo World Heritage Area.

“The Australian Government continues to protect this species in this area through activities funded under the five-year Regional Land Partnerships Program,” he said.

“This includes support for the Gnaraloo Station Trust to continue feral animal control to protect Gnaraloo loggerhead turtle rookeries in the Ningaloo World Heritage Area.”

But Ms Hattingh argues that the lack of funding has fundamentally voided the data they spent 10 years gathering.

“To understand what happens with loggerhead turtle nesting, you need a 30-year baseline to deal with variations,” Ms Hattingh said.

“We were at the 10-year mark, but year 11 and 12 have been lost which means that 30-year baseline is no longer possible.”

The GTCP also engaged more than 20,000 people over the last 10 years by going in to schools after the nesting season to share their findings with students from pre-primary to university.

With the program loosing it’s funding, GWF’s ability to train young scientists has also been lost.

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