Tag­ging pro­gram un­earths rich data

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Perera

The Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife’s hawks­bill tur­tle tag­ging pro­gram on Rose­mary Is­land in the Dampier Archipelago has reached the end of an­other suc­cess­ful year of con­ser­va­tion re­search.

The tag­ging pro­gram, one of the long­est-run­ning in WA, is con­ducted by DPaW and sup­ported by Rio Tinto as part of re­search into hawks­bill tur­tle pop­u­la­tion num­bers and be­hav­iour pat­terns.

DPaW Pil­bara’s marine con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer Joanne King said 29 years in, the pro­gram was still giv­ing the depart­ment new in­for­ma­tion on hawks­bills.

“This year we recorded 444 tur­tles over 14 nights, in­clud­ing 134 tur­tles which had not been recorded be­fore and were sub­se­quently tagged on their front flip­pers,” she said.

“(Tag­ging) tells us that the pop­u­la­tion on Rose­mary Is­land has up to 1000 nest­ing fe­males. We didn’t know how big the pop­u­la­tion was when the pro­gram started.

“It helps us to mon­i­tor the pop­u­la­tion to see if there’s an im­pact — a de­cline or some­thing un­to­ward.”

Ms King said the pro­gram mat­tered be­cause hawks­bill tur­tles were crit­i­cally en­dan­gered world­wide and even in Aus­tralia, where they were clas­si­fied as vul­ner­a­ble, lit­tle was known about them.

“Long-term projects such as this are im­por­tant as tur­tles have a com­plex life cy­cle and trends in pop­u­la­tion num­bers can be de­tected over decades, thereby im­prov­ing man­age­ment of this threat­ened species,” she said.

Rio Tinto ports oper­a­tions gen­eral man­ager Jess Far­rell said Rio was in­volved to help the species’ con­ser­va­tion.

“Rose­mary Is­land sup­ports the largest hawks­bill rook­ery in the Indo-Pa­cific, so tur­tle con­ser­va­tion is im­per­a­tive for the re­gion,” she said.

Pic­ture: DPaW

Anna Viten­bergs and Pa­trick Dis­tel get ready to mea­sure and tag a hawks­bill tur­tle.

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