Loggerhead turtle
Loggerhead turtle

Five rescued juvenile loggerhead turtles will soon swim back into natural habitat via Ningaloo Marine Park after being found washed ashore along the south-west coast of Western Australia.

The rescued turtles were found by members of the public last year and reported to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ (DBCA) Parks and Wildlife Service.

Once reported, the turtles were taken by the Parks and Wildlife Service to Perth Zoo vets for assessment, before being transferred to the State’s turtle rehabilitation centres at AQWA and the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre.

Today, three of the turtles will have satellite transmitters attached to their shells to track their movements after the release for the next six months. Previously, individuals have been tracked as far as Madagascar.

DBCA scientist Dr. Scott Whiting said this tag and release operation would provide valuable data and insight into loggerhead habitat and movements.

“This is a great example of teamwork with community involvement and multiple organisations working to support the conservation of this important vulnerable highly migratory species,” Dr. Whiting said.

“The scientific information we gather through tracking will help provide valuable insight into the little-known early life of the loggerhead turtle, and we can learn more about their drifting patterns influenced by nearshore and offshore currents.

“This release is also an important reminder for anyone who sees stranded loggerhead turtles to please call and report it to the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.”

This upcoming release is part of the conservation effort that works to support this vulnerable endangered marine species, with only an estimated 1500-2000 females known to nest annually in WA.

Post hatchling loggerhead turtles periodically strand along the south-west WA coast. The strandings appear to be influenced by winter storms and the strength of the Leeuwin current. Some years there are less than 10 found, while other years present more than 100.

Loggerhead turtles have an oceanic life stage between entering the water as a hatchling and settling in coastal waters as adults.

Little is known about this life stage and by using tracking devices, DBCA scientists hope to gain information on the movements and behaviour of the turtles to inform conservation actions.

Page reviewed 11 May 2021