Gnaraloo has been busy this past week with not only the commencement of the sea turtle satellite tracking project, but also with the arrival of the Carnarvon Community College’s Bushranger cadets, comprised of 13 students (from Years 7-10) and 3 teachers. The students joined the GTCP field team on our morning and evening surveys where they had the opportunity to learn about sea turtles, as well as how to identify turtle tracks and nesting activities along nesting beaches.
Prior to joining us on beach, the students sat through an orientation on sea turtle conservation, the GTCP, and what they needed to know before heading out. We were impressed with how much the students already knew about sea turtles, having correctly answered all of our tricky questions and asking very thoughtful ones themselves!
On their first evening, the Bushranger cadets walked along the northern section of Gnaraloo Bay Rookery, accompanied by Jordy and myself, to look for sea turtles and their tracks in the dark. On our first attempt up the beach, we came across a female loggerhead (Caretta caretta) in the process of covering up her nest. This was the first time the majority of the students had seen a sea turtle up close and everyone was mesmerized by, as well as full of questions about, her behaviour.
Once the turtle had finished, she was fitted with a satellite tag and given the special name – Gwoonwardu, which is the Aboriginal name for Carnarvon. The name was chosen by the group prior to them coming to Gnaraloo as part of our “name the turtle” competition, and it just so happened that the first turtle to be tagged that evening was to be given that name! The following evening, a small number of students came out for a second opportunity to encounter nesting sea turtles and this time, they were able to observe a loggerhead turtle lay her eggs!
Early the next morning, GTCP interns – Alistair and I, along with the ranger cadets, made our way to the southern section of Gnaraloo Bay to scope around for sea turtle, and other animal, tracks in the sand. Although no actual turtle tracks were observed, the group was able to look at kangaroo and crab tracks in detail. The students were also introduced to a Sample Nest that the GTCP team monitors daily for signs of predation, environmental impacts and sand-level change.
When the survey was completed, Alistair and I gave the students a brief overview on the features of different turtle nesting activities and tracks that Alistair had already prepared in the sand. Following this, the students were asked to join in identifying and creating their own turtle tracks and nests. The activity presented an opportunity for the students to demonstrate what they had learnt over the last two days and they definitely showed us that they knew their stuff!
We want to thank the Carnarvon Bushranger cadets and their supervisors, especially Ronny Naidoo who coordinated the students coming to Gnarloo, for joining the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program and making the experience extremely enjoyable and worthwhile for everyone. It was as much a learning experience for the school group as it was for this season’s GTCP team!
Melanie Do (GTCP Community Engagement Intern)