Introduced foxes have exerted significant predation pressure on sea turtle nests at some mainland rookeries in Australia since at least the 1960s.
Fox predation, if not controlled, can cause the loss of the majority of turtle nests in particular locations. In Queensland, for example, up to 95% of nests at some mainland sites were dug up by foxes during the 1970s and early 1980s. Anecdotal reports suggest that foxes have been active in the Ningaloo region in Western Australia since the 1960s.
The Gnaraloo Station Trust created the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program and the Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program in 2008 to target Matters of National Environmental Significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth) and control feral predators of turtle nests: such as the European red fox (Vulpes vulpes), feral cats (Felis catus) and wild dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). A high level of fox predation is likely to have affected sea turtle nests at Gnaraloo prior to 2008.
It took 2 seasons (2008/09 – 2009/10) of targeted feral animal control for the highly successful Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program to reduce turtle nest predation by feral animals in the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery to zero per cent, where it has remained from 2010 to the end of the monitoring season 2017/18.
There was a total of 2,771 loggerhead nests in the Gnaraloo Bay survey area since 2010/11. Based on an average clutch size of 112, an estimated 310,352 loggerhead turtle eggs have been protected from feral animal predation during 2010/11 – 2017/18.
The Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program also helps to protect biodiversity at the inland Lake MacLeod Wetland System adjacent to Gnaraloo, which are also impacted by foxes, feral cats and wild dogs. Lake MacLeod has significant migratory bird populations listed under various international conventions and has been proposed for Ramsar listing.
The Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program continues to be a critical component of the overall sea turtle conservation program at Gnaraloo. The program increases biodiversity values and outcomes at Gnaraloo to protect native fauna, such as small to medium sized mammals, marsupials, ground nesting birds, reptiles and insects, from predation and extinction by pest animals. The Spinifex Hopping-mouse (Notomys alexis) is an indicator of biodiversity health. Sightings of this species were recorded at Gnaraloo during 2011 and 2013 by Animal Pest Management Services.
The Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program was jointly undertaken by the Gnaraloo Station Trust and Animal Pest Management Services, a specialised pest control company, during 2008/09 to 2014/15. During this time, the Gnaraloo Station Trust and Animal Pest Management Services invested over $250,000 into this program. Due to tenure changes of the Gnaraloo pastoral lease on 1 July 2015, the Gnaraloo Station Trust transferred management of the feral control program to Rangelands NRM Western Australia, the Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia) and Animal Pest Management Services.
The Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program continues to independently assess and monitor the outcomes of the Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program. The seasonal Gnaraloo turtle field teams monitor the targeted sea turtle rookeries daily for four months each year for any evidence of presence or activity by feral predators (including tracks, scats, disturbance and predation). Monitoring results are provided to Animal Pest Management Services for corrective action and response to control any identified feral animal presence or threats in the rookeries.
Sea turtle conservation
The scientific Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program identifies, monitors and protects nesting rookeries of endangered sea turtles on Gnaraloo beaches.
Our rigorously researched documents reflect important baseline data on the sea turtles of Gnaraloo and their critical coastal nesting habitat.