Lonely Planet Writer

Conservationists announce new turtle-tracking app

Conservationists have announced the creation of a new app that tracks the movements of endangered loggerhead turtles nesting on the western coast of Australia.

Loggerhead sea turtle.
Loggerhead sea turtle. Image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / CC BY 2.0

The app will be available to everyone, not just the scientific community, in a move conservationists hope will raise the profile of efforts to protect the species. Each turtle tracked through the app will be given a name and special profile, with users able to follow its journey through the Indian Ocean. But first, they need to tag some turtles.

The team of environmental scientists and conservationists responsible for the app’s creation has converged on Gnaraloo Station in far north Western Australia, where they will spend the next four months attaching tags to the shells of 10 female loggerhead turtles. It’s a lengthy and difficult process, with up to five people required to harness each of the 100kg turtles. Attaching the tag can take up to eight hours and can only be done after the turtle has laid her eggs.

Baby loggerhead turtle.
Baby loggerhead turtle. Image by NOAA’s / CC BY 2.0

Much mystery surrounds the habits and migration patterns of the endangered loggerhead turtles. Just one in 3000 females will return to the site they were born at to nest, and then only every four years. Where they go in the interim is a source of speculation. “They’re a migratory species, they move in between continents, we don’t know how far they go,” Karen Hattingh, program manager of the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program, told the ABC.

Knowing more about the migration patterns and feeding grounds of the turtles will help conservationists target their programs for maximum impact, as well as provide state and federal governments with information to consider when planning future infrastructure and development along the coast.