App to help track loggerhead turtle movements along Indian ocean
A world-first app will help conservationists discover the mysteries behind the movements of the endangered loggerhead turtles.
A team of environmental scientists and conservationists have gathered at Gnaraloo Station in Western Australia’s North West to track the journey of loggerheads through the Indian Ocean and make it available to anyone around the world.
It is hoped the project will help inform the conservation efforts of the species.
Female loggerhead turtles face one-in-3,000 odds of returning to the site where they were born to nest.
Once they reach maturity at the age of 30, they only return once every four years.
Where the turtle slips away between nesting has remained a mystery to those wanting to improve the odds of the species’ survival.
« They’re a migratory species, they move in between continents, we don’t know how far they go, » said Karen Hattingh, program manager of the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program.
« If they go elsewhere on the Ningaloo Coast, if they go to Shark Bay, so it’s going to be fascinating to find out where they actually go when they leave the nesting beaches. »
Scientists will spend the next four months trekking the isolated coast of Gnaraloo Station in the middle of the night to attach tags to the shells of 10 loggerheads.
Turtles tracked in darkness
The process is painstaking and involves locating turtle tracks in complete darkness.
Up to five men are required to harness the turtle, weighing more than 100 kilograms, once it finishes laying its eggs so they can attach a tag to its shell. It takes up to eight hours at a time.
Each turtle is given a name and special profile, and its tracker will send data to an app showing its journey through the Indian Ocean.
Dof Dickinson, the director of Brains Design, the company that developed the app, said the program will give scientists a world first look into the lives of the species and insights into their conservation.
« We’re going to get hit spots coming up and that’s going to show us where the turtles spend a bit more time and that’s going to indicate feeding grounds, » she said.
« That’s really important to science because it’s like ‘ok this is where we need to focus our conservation efforts’. »
The Gnaraloo loggerhead turtles are the third largest population of the species in the world.
Foxes and feral cats have wreaked havoc on their nesting grounds in recent years but with the help of environmental scientists and conservation workers, the threat is diminishing.
Chair andfFounder of the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation, Paul Richardson, hopes the app will help these conservation efforts by preventing tourism facilities being developed at Gnaraloo in the future.
« The fact that the apps going to be out there, that many people all over the world are going to know that it’s there, hopefully that will help persuade the State Government not to develop in the ways that they intend to, » he said.