THE Care for Hedland Environmental Association’s Community Volunteer Turtle Monitoring Program has documented another successful nesting season of the protected species, Flatback turtle (Natator depressus).
During months from October to February, volunteers converge along the Port Hedland coastline at Cemetery Beach and Pretty Pool to monitor the annual Flatback turtle nesting migration.
“The success of flatback turtle nesting in Port Hedland is due in large part to the Hedland community’s efforts to help protect the species,” says Environment Minister Bill Marmion.
“Volunteer training in particular plays an important role. Training covers turtle biology, understanding and managing threats, in addition to track monitoring, occupational health and safety in the field and identifying turtle nesting stages.”
Volunteer co-ordinator Mr Kris Laurendi says, “We have data from 2004 to present and the data is showing that there is a 2–4 year breeding cycle. We see some years with lots of nests and then it goes down. The only way we can see what the population is doing is by having long term data—at least 10 years. We’re almost there but the monitoring will continue beyond 10 years”.
“We’re really grateful to all our volunteers and without them we couldn’t really keep going. We have input from our sponsors BHP Billiton and Landcorp. Greening Australia allows us to work out of their offices,” says Mr Laurendi.
In its eight year history the Community Volunteer program has been awarded the 2010 Western Australian Environment Award in the category Biodiversity Conservation. It also won three categories in the 2009 WA Coastal Excellence Awards.
“We started with 35 people and in October 2004 was our first season. Today we have on average 155 volunteers that come from all over the world. We have people from the UK, Brazil, Portugal, lots of local people, school children, retirees and people from all walks of life. It’s a fantastic success story,” says Town of Port Hedland Mayor Kelly Howlett and founder of Care for Hedland Environmental Association.
“Cemetery Beach is right in the heart of town and compared to any of the turtle rookery areas in all of Australia, we can walk down the footpath down onto the beach and see it [turtle nesting] as nature intended,” says Ms Howlett.
As of 24th of February 2012, volunteers recorded a total of 379 nests and counted 347 hatched nests.