Turtle talk to help Gnaraloo’s unique program

The Western Australian Museum – Geraldton is doing its bit to help a unique program to protect residents of a remote stretch of WA coastline in the world famous Ningaloo Marine Park.

The Gnaraloo coastline is building fame in its own right because of its endangered sea turtle populations.

Sea turtles nest and hatch on beaches along the Gnaraloo coastline annually, generally from November to April.

“We are hosting this talk so people can learn more about the turtles and the Gnaraloo turtle conservation program,” said WA Museum – Geraldton regional manager, Leigh O’Brien.

Project manager for the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP), Karen Hattingh, said the sea turtle nesting rookeries on beaches along the Gnaraloo coastline are of major importance as the largest confirmed mainland nesting rookeries of endangered loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in Western Australia.

“The Gnaraloo Station Trust has been researching sea turtle nesting activities on the Gnaraloo coastline with consecutive full season surveys since 2008 and set up the GTCP to undertake this work,” Ms Hattingh said. “There are two key sea turtle nesting rookeries on the Gnaraloo coastline, within the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area and Ningaloo Marine Park, namely the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery and Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery”.

The nesting loggerhead sea turtles at Gnaraloo are part of the third largest loggerhead population in the world. Loggerheads are endangered and are listed in Australian legislation as a Matter of National Environmental Significance.

The nesting beaches on the Gnaraloo coastline are also used by endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and critically endangered hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).

The GTCP aims to:

  • Collect reliable, high quality data on sea turtle nesting activities
  • Protect significant rookeries
  • Inform management activity to promote the long term survival of sea turtle populations and
  • Involve schools, community and environmental groups and the public with sea turtle conservation through educational programs at Gnaraloo and offsite presentations in regional and metropolitan locations in Western Australia.

The GTCP research is licensed by the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife and establishes important baseline data for an area with little existing scientifically verified sea turtle information.

Gnaraloo Station is a working pastoral station and wilderness tourism business about 150 km north of Carnarvon, in remote north-western Australia.

The GTCP is supported by other partners and bodies, among them the Australian Government, Rangelands NRM Western Australia, Department of Parks and Wildlife Western Australia, Esri Australia and Animal Pest Management Services.

The lecture on March 18th at 7pm and is free.