NPA Turtle Camp 2014

One of many lucky hatchlings that get a helping hand.

NPARC Ranger Update: 30/09/14

The NPARC/Apudthama land & sea ranger program is still conducting our third annual turtle monitoring program at present with just tonight’s tagging patrol and tomorrow morning’s predation and activity patrol to wrap things up before we break camp and head home.

At present there is a strong feeling of achievement within the ranger program and as the ranger coordinator, I am proud of the involvement and ownership displayed by our senior staff and how positive our casual and permanent staff conducted themselves through late night work and a tirade of never ending visitors including school students, funding reps, media, external partners, other ranger group reps. elders and researchers.

One thousand flipper tags were given to our program by EHP”s endangered species unit and the last of these will be placed on the left front flipper of nesting Flat back turtles tonight on the mainland between Jardine river mouth and Slade pt were we have a designated 10km stretch of monitoring area. This same area was highlighted over five years ago as having over 95% pig predation level on turtle nests. Today, pig predation is under 10% due to our ranger program’s active participation and management of feral pigs within our area. This would not be achieved without the assistance of Cape York Natural Resource Management and Ghostnets Australia who answered the calls of Western Cape communities to form the Western Cape Turtle Threats Abatement Alliance (WCTTAA – keep an eye on this group as it heralds a new age in natural resource management strategies for indigenous communities) Through WCTTAA, our ranger program receives funding towards turtle monitoring and protection. Three years ago, we were invited to training at the Mapoon turtle camp. (Mapoon have successfully run a turtle monitoring program in partnership with EHP for many years) Last year, we started monitoring nest temperature within our Indicator nest program (due to the large number of turtles nesting we select ten nests each year that we monitor intensively right through till hatchling emergence – this provides an indication or average on what is happening with total number of nests)we were also given four hundred flipper tags (EHP)with which we had finished within a month. We also managed two aerial culls.

This year so far, we have conducted three aerial culls in which the Pormpuraaw rangers (affiliated with WCTTAA) helped us to achieve. We now have two staff qualified with CAT D firearm licences conducting the aerial shooting.

WCTTAA pursued two Satellite tracker tags and in the eleventh hour sealed a deal with EHP, in which one of their senior Turtle researchers Ian Bell worked with us for five days to demonstrate to our rangers how to install sat tags upon two adult female Flat back turtles named KIKU and CECILIA. The information received from this can be viewed on Sea turtle.org. The data will provide a clearer picture of inter nesting activities of the flat back turtles nesting in our area.

Ian Bell, who works very closely with our ranger program also provided knowledge from invaluable experience towards developing a monitoring and management plan of the largest Flat back turtle rookery in the world on Crab Island were over six hundred turtles have been recorded nest laying in one night. Ian is already pursuing the involvement of other researchers as a form of herpes has been sighted by our early works on Crab Island and so as the song goes “From little things, big things grow” it is hard to believe that four years ago we didn’t have any turtle monitoring program or much of an idea on how to start one….

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Story by Warren Strevens

NPARC/Apudthama Ranger Coordinator