Ningaloo turtle’s epic nesting journey

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
Turtle and kayak in Mangrove Bay on Ningaloo Reef, on the west side of North West Cape.
Camera IconTurtle and kayak in Mangrove Bay on Ningaloo Reef, on the west side of North West Cape. Credit: WA News

An intrepid mother turtle from the Ningaloo Coast has surprised scientists after making a 1000km journey to the Kimberley to lay her eggs.

The Ningaloo Outlook research team held a public forum in Exmouth on Monday to reveal the latest findings of its shallow and deep reef research and studies on whale sharks and turtles on the Ningaloo Reef.

CSIRO Ningaloo Outlook project leader Mat Vanderklift said one of the “coolest” results from research in the past year was a pregnant turtle which was tracked from Ningaloo all the way to Broome.

“From Mangrove Bay where we found her, she moved to the beaches around Jurabi two or three times over about eight weeks, then she took off,” he said.

“She went almost all the way to Broome and stopped at La Grange Bay, where she spent the next two months ... and laid her clutches.

“It was a surprise to us.

“We have picked up Kimberley, Pilbara, Barrow Island and Coral Bay turtles nesting on the beaches of the North West Cape but here is one which lives on Ningaloo and nested up near Broome.”

VideoWatch the moment a shark tries to bite a turtle in WA's Coral Bay.

Mr Vanderklift said the finding highlighted how much there still was to learn about turtles, and the need to think beyond Ningaloo.

The Exmouth community has been heavily involved in the project, with local school students getting first-hand experience in reef research.

“There’s not much point doing the work if we are not going to tell the community — they have that local ownership of the reef,” Mr Vanderklift said.

“The school is central partner with the project.

“We do all sorts of things with them — anything from building underwater robots in the swimming pool or taking kids out on the turtle tagging.”

Mr Vanderklift said the research had found several good news stories over the past year.

The reef is relatively clean of marine debris by global standards.

Deep reef research had also uncovered one of the world’s largest aggregations of a solitary mushroom coral.

“It’s amazing, we keep getting surprised,” he said.

“When we think we are starting to understand what is going on, we get a new surprise.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails