A flatback hatchling - Photo © S Cardew

The West Pilbara Turtle Program brings together industry, government and the community, to monitor marine turtle nesting and raise awareness on the importance of local beaches for turtle conservation.

The program is a partnership between the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Rio Tinto.


The program aims to:

  • monitor numbers of nesting marine turtles (by identifying and counting tracks)
  • determine nesting success
  • record evidence of impacts (human interference and feral animal predation) on local beaches.

The data we collect will help to improve our knowledge on nesting turtles, and assist Parks and Wildlife and Rio Tinto to make informed decisions on turtle management.

Why is it so important?

  • Flatback turtles, the main species monitored by the program, are endemic to Australia and only nest on Australian beaches.
  • Flatback turtles are threatened and protected under Western Australian and Australian law.
  • Nests on Wickham's back beaches need protection from human-induced threats including beach driving and campfires.
  • Nesting turtles, eggs and hatchlings also need protection from inappropriate interaction, artificial light sources and predation by feral animals.
  • The Turtle Program helps raise awareness on turtle nesting in the area and reduce local threats to turtles.
  • Read more about marine turtles in Western Australia.

When does the program run?

Turtles nest during summer, so beach monitoring occurs each morning between 1 November and 31 March.

Where does the monitoring occur?

Bells Beach near Cape Lambert Port Operations is the main beach monitored by the volunteers.

A recent pilot study was undertaken at Cleaverville during the 2013–14 season. The pilot study will be extended through the 2014–15 program, and may expand in the future depending on volunteer interest and nesting sea turtle activity.

Who is involved, and what do they do?

  • The community-based West Pilbara Turtle Program relies on volunteer members. Turtle Program volunteers are registered with Parks and Wildlife, and covered by the department's insurance.
  • After completing a short training course, volunteers conduct daily monitoring of turtle nesting activity on a roster system.
  • Monitoring occurs at first light while tracks (made during the night) are still fresh and conditions are not too hot.
  • The time it takes depends on the length of the beach and the number of tracks found—a typical track count usually takes between an hour and ninety minutes.
A flatback at sunset - Photo © M Speirs/ Parks and Wildlife

How much time is involved?

  • The program appreciates any time you can contribute.
  • Members can commit to as much or as little time as they can manage.
  • The program's roster system allows volunteers to know the monitoring dates well in advance.

Can't do the track counts but still want to be involved?

There are many other ways you can contribute to the program:

  • attend events
  • offer billeted accommodation for non-local volunteers
  • assist volunteers without transportation
  • receive and share our newsletters
  • spread the word and help recruit more members.

How do I register?

Contact the West Pilbara Turtle Program Coordinator on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (08) 9182 2031.

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is proud to be the founding partner of the program, which has been running since the 2005–06 marine turtle nesting season.

Recently the partnership was renewed to June 2016, with $155,000 contributed from Rio Tinto towards the delivery of the program.

wptp logo      rio tinto logo