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Green turtle tagged on Jones Island to inform Indigenous rangers in Kimberley-wide conservation plan

Jane MurphyBroome Advertiser
Uunguu rangers tagged a green turtle on Jones Island, in the remote northern Kimberley.
Camera IconUunguu rangers tagged a green turtle on Jones Island, in the remote northern Kimberley. Credit: supplied

A group of rangers on a remote island in WA’s far-north have successfully tagged a green turtle, hoping its movement will provide vital information for the conservation of the Kimberley’s coastal environment.

Uunguu Ranger Damon Bundamarra and Wunambal Gaambera ranger co-ordinator Shane Clugston were last week patrolling the dark shores of Jones Island — a one-hour boat ride north of Kalumburu — when Mr Bundamarra spotted the tracks of a 2m long green turtle, who had arrived on beach to nest.

The night’s task was to place a tracker on the creature, allowing its foraging and breeding habits to be monitored over the following 12 months.

According to Mr Bundamarra and Mr Clugston, this is no easy task.

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Mr Clugston admitted it took skill, patience and strength to place the tracker on the turtle.

“We camped ourselves on the island for two nights, getting up at about 10:30 each evening to have a walk around the island and look for tracks,” he said.

“Damon spotted the turtle tracks and kept an eye on it while it was laying eggs. Then we had to hang on to each flipper, while waiting for the glue on the transmitter to dry — it took nearly two hours. And those flippers are strong.”

The team have already discovered some vital information about where the species travel after nesting.

“At this stage, we’re finding it the ones from Jones Island up there North Kimberley are heading across to the Tiwi Islands and as far as the Gulf of Carpentaria. So they’re traveling thousands of kilometers from the nesting site to feed,” he said.

“The end goal is we want to see turtles in the future. We don’t want to see them depleting.

The information gathered through this process will go on to inform rangers across the Kimberley in the implementation of the Kimberley Indigenous Turtle and Dugong Initiative of 2022-2032, a plan designed to ensure the health of sea turtle and dugong species and their habitats.

The initiative was drawn up by the Kimberley Indigenous Saltwater Advisory Group, which met this week to discuss the plan with those charged with its implementation — Nyangumarta, Kara Jarri, Yawuru, Nyul Nyul, Bardi Jawi, Mayala, Dambimangari, Wunambal Gaambera and Balanggarra groups.

ISWAG co-chair Daniel Oades said the decision to focus of turtle and dugongs was a no-brainer for the group, as each Indigenous saltwater Ranger group has both species listed as priorities.

“We’re scalling the priorites up — saying turtles and dugongs are important to everyone, so what do we need to look after then?” he said.

Among ranger groups, the meeting fostered discussions on the principles of joint management, cultural engagement and cultural frameworks do better management.

National and Commonwealth players were also in attendance, in the hope external funding could also be provided to the plan’s implementation.

“It’s been a journey for a while now and it’s great to see it getting to this point, but it’s also a great knowledge sharing experience and an opportunity to see what the rangers are doing.”

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