Turtle monitoring taskforce descends on Pilbara island

Volunteer Rebecca Evans and Parks and Wildlife officer Hannah Hampson measuring a flatback
Volunteer Rebecca Evans and Parks and Wildlife officer Hannah Hampson measuring a flatback Liz Grant, WA Parks and Wildlife

A Department of Parks and Wildlife pilot flatback turtle monitoring program is underway at Thevenard Island, 22km off the coast of Onslow, to investigate its suitability as a long-term monitoring site.

Over the next four weeks a team led by Parks and Wildlife marine scientists and assisted by volunteers will be collecting data, counting turtle tracks and tagging female turtles.

Thevenard Island project leader Sabrina Fossette-Halot said the team’s objective was to assess the size of the flatback turtle population nesting on Thevenard Island and to deploy satellite tags to track female turtles’ movements during and after the nesting season.

“We have about 20 volunteers from Onslow, Exmouth, Perth and even Queensland who are assisting Parks and Wildlife staff in collecting data,” Dr Fossette-Halot said.

“This information will contribute to a broader understanding of the ecology and demography of the Pilbara flatback turtle stock.”

Thevenard, a nature reserve of about 550ha, is the largest of the Mackerel Islands, a group of 10 islands about 1400km north of Perth. It is an important nesting site in the Pilbara for flatback, green and hawksbill turtles.

The pilot project at Thevenard is part of the North West Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program’s monitoring program, which is being established to help understand the ecology and demography of the North West Shelf flatback stock, which includes populations found off the Pilbara and southwest Kimberley coasts.

Flatbacks are listed as vulnerable under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act 1950. Internationally they are considered data deficient, meaning that more research is required to determine their abundance and distribution.

The North West Shelf Flatback Conservation Program is a $32.5 million, 30-year program funded by the Chevron-operated Gorgon Gas Project and is administered by the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Media contact: Parks and Wildlife Media 9219 9999

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