We will start work this week on an exciting new part of the turtle research program at Gnaraloo. Later today Kimmie and Fiona will head about 35km north of the Gnaraloo Homestead area, into the area that is closed to public vehicle access, to commence monitoring surveys of a previously unstudied sea turtle rookery at Gnaraloo. The remote coastal breeding area is near Cape Farquhar extending to Gnaraloo’s northern boundary and could potentially support another significant sea turtle rookery which we have named the Gnaraloo Farquhar Rookery (GFR).
During aerial surveys of the Gnaraloo coastline in 2009/10 and 2010/11 to determine whether there was any other turtle activity than at the currently monitored Gnaraloo Bay Rookery, researchers counted 12 turtle tracks (2010) and 14 turtle tracks (2011) within the GFR. These numbers are similar to what is recorded daily in the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery during the peak time for turtle nesting activity. Due to the high number of turtle tracks observed in the GFR during the aerial surveys, Gnaraloo made a decision to expand the survey areas and scope of research under the GTCP to include the GFR as well during the season 2011/12.
We will formally monitor the remote GFR 3 times this season for a period of 3 days each. Through these initial surveys, we hope to gain a better understanding of which turtle species nest in the GFR and to what extent the GFR is used for turtle nesting purposes. We also hope to determine through snorkeling surveys whether the Ningaloo Reef off this section of coastline at Gnaraloo is habitat or home to any turtle species and if so, whether such turtles use the Ningaloo Lagoon for foraging, breeding and/or resting purposes.
We are very excited about this research as Kimmie and Fiona will be the first researchers to commence formal monitoring of this area! Karen, GTCP Project Manager:
‘If the northern coastal area of Gnaraloo is found to also host a significant number of breeding sea turtles, it would mean that the previous estimation of the number of turtles at Gnaraloo which were based only on the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery is an under estimations and that there may be more turtles here than we thought, which would make it even more important to retain Gnaraloo in its wilderness state’.
Hopefully this first trip is a success and Kimmie and Fiona find many tracks and nests.
Good luck girls!