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You Know You’re In Broome When you Chance Upon an Endangered Marine Turtle on Cable Beach

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Broome's Cable Beach is world famous for many things, including 22 kilometres of sun-kissed white sand, turquoise water, spectacular Indian Ocean sunsets and camel trains. But its what its not famous for that can really provide the unsuspecting with the ultimate and wonderous delight. Between 1 November and 28 February each year a group of volunteers monitor six km of beach for signs of marine turtles. This is turtle breeding season, in the first 2 months the monitors are checking for turtles that may have come up to nest through the night. The signs are not unlike a large vehicle tyre track emerging from the low water mark and finishing at the base of the sand dunes. The most seasoned monitor being able to tell if there is a nest or if it was just a “false crawl” (turtle monitor lingo for false alarm, no nest) All nests are plotted on GPS and marked with signage advising the unwary of its existence.

There is very little in the way of interpretive signage on the access paths to Cable Beach to inform people of the presence of marine turtles on the beach, or that it is turtle breeding season. Many visitors to Broome during the breeding season remain unaware that turtles nest on Cable Beach. Often on their early morning walks along the beach they will chance upon the tracks emerging from the surf. “Has a tractor just driven out of the sea” would be a common thought from city dwellers? Those who visit in the second part of the season may chance across hatchlings making the long and perilous journey from the sand dunes to the low water mark. This unexpected and serendipitous event is often the highlight for anyone visiting Broome.

The turtle monitoring program has just completed its thirteenth year. The program is managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation, Attractions Parks and Wildlife Service with coordination of the volunteer program provided by Kevin Smith aka “The Turtle Whisperer” This season approximately 95 nests were recorded along the six kilometres of monitored beach. The first nests were seen on October 20 (somebody forgot to tell the turtles the breeding season dates) with the last recorded sighting of a hatchling occ urring on February 25.

Turte monitor volunteers photograph green back hatchling Its predominantly Flat Back Turtles that nest on Cable Beach, however this season there were at least three Green Turtle nests, the first time they were officially recorded on Cable Beach. Both species are listed as endangered in Australia. Marine turtles are extraordinary creatures facing existential challenges. Their gender is determined by the temperature of their sand nests, making them susceptible to climate change. If a male hatchling makes it to the water and survives (the survival rate of hatchlings is one in one thousand), he will never come on land again. Females will stay at sea until they are of breeding age and then will return to the same beach they were hatched on to nest. This ability to return to your own nesting site after a decade of swimming anywhere between Broome and Papua New Guinea is no less than extraordinary.

If your visiting Broome next turtle breeding season, make sure you get up early because you know you’re in Broome when you meet the turtle whisperer on Cable Beach.

You Know Your in Broome When.... is a blog series by #SoBroome, published every Saturday.

Click here to find more posts in the You-Know-You're-in-Broome-When series.

Share your Marine Turtle experiences with us in the comments below.

Images supplied by Kevin Smith (aka The Turtle Whiperer)






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