Care For Hedland’s community-based turtle monitoring program was established in 2004 to provide a much-needed role for the awareness and conservation of the local threatened Flatback sea turtle species Natator depressus. The presence of Flatback turtles in Hedland gives a unique opportunity for the community and visitors to the area to be actively involved in contributing to the monitoring of the protected species. In 2010, Care For Hedland won the WA Environment Award Biodiversity Conservation for our Flatback Turtle Monitoring Program.
Since 2008, Care For Hedland has been supported by Principal Partner BHP who make a considerable financial contribution every year towards the Scientific data collection and biometrics program and the employment of a Scientific Turtle Coordinator.
Flatback sea turtles nest only on Australian beaches and have the shortest migratory range of all sea turtles. There is currently limited population data available on the species, highlighting the importance of the Care for Hedland turtle monitoring program. This program is a part of a wider turtle monitoring project encompassing nesting rookeries from Shark Bay to the Kimberley.
The Hedland turtle monitoring program operates from November to March each year in correlation with the annual Flatback migration to the coastline for the nesting and hatchling seasons (nesting season: November – January and hatchling season: December – March).
The program uses a non-invasive approach to obtain monitoring data through conducting early morning beach patrols assessing turtle tracks and sand patterns. Laid and hatched nest locations are recorded using a GPS and additional turtle and predator activity is documented. This data is sent to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and joins a state-wide database which helps scientists to build a picture of Flatback turtle populations and nesting behaviour.