The loggerhead sea turtle is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and – you’ll never guess – humans are largely responsible, with the marine animal’s habitat being decimated by coastal development. So since we’re the ones who put the little guys at risk, it’s just as well some clever Aussie humans have developed an app dedicated to saving the loggerheads of Gnaraloo.
Called the Turtle Tracker, the app tracks the movements of female turtles that nest on beaches north of Carnarvon on the coast of Western Australia from November to February.
Specifically, the app will tell scientists where 10 female turtles go during their journeys throughout the Indian Ocean.
“Our new satellite tracking program will help to reveal this mystery to inform conservation efforts at Gnaraloo and elsewhere,” says Paul Richardson, chair and founder of the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation. “Over time the app will build up a picture of where the 10 female loggerhead turtles go between nesting, how often they return to lay their eggs on the wild beaches of Gnaraloo and where they go once the nesting season is over.”
The 10 loggerheads being tracked were named by members of the public, via social media, in return for donations. So you can choose whether you want to hang out in the Indian Ocean with either Gnarly, Marloo, Normalex, Gwoonwardu, Oceaneve, Constance Winifred, Caretta, Pulsy, Eugenie or Tildy.
And while tracking a turtle sounds easy enough – they’re not exactly famed speedsters, are they? – tracking marine life via a satellite is incredibly difficult:
Each satellite circles the earth every 101 minutes and so it is only over any one place on the planet for about 10 minutes. For the satellite to determine the location of the transmitter, it takes about three to five minutes, and the transmitter must be on the surface to be detected. However, turtles rarely remain on the surface for that long, and their surfacing must coincide with the satellite passing overhead.
Furthermore, the loggerhead turtle has a survival rate of one in every 1500 – so you’re being given ten 1-1500 odds. Download the app, then buy a lottery ticket!
And these odds are likely to grow even further, as the Western Australian government has plans to turn the turtles’ nesting area of Gnaraloo Bay into a ‘tourist node’.
While that sounds innocuous enough, Richardson warns that further coastal development could be dire to the loggerheads’ long-term survivial.
“At other beaches around the world tourist facilities have had disastrous effects on sea turtle numbers,” he said. “Turtles navigate by following the lowest light on their horizon, so light from hotels and cars can cause both the mature females and hatchlings to head inland instead of back out to sea – where they rapidly dehydrate and die.”
Karen Hattingh, Project Manager of the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program, said, “Every single adult loggerhead and hatchling at Gnaraloo matters to the survival of this species locally and internationally.”
“Their odds of survival are slim enough as it is. They only nest every three to four years and only one in 1500 loggerhead turtles survive to sexual maturity, which takes around 30 years.
“The Gnaraloo turtles contribute vital numbers to the global loggerhead population, and so their nesting rookeries on the beaches of Gnaraloo Bay and Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar are extremely important to global conservation efforts.”