By Michelle Wheeler
A newly discovered turtle rookery at Gnaraloo, north of Carnarvon, could be one of the most significant mainland loggerhead turtle nesting sites in WA, according to surveys undertaken this summer.
The Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar rookery was discovered three years ago using aerial surveys but the significance of the 14km nesting area was only realised after scientific interns visited the area in the past two seasons.
Gnaraloo pastoral station is already recognised as a premier mainland loggerhead turtle nesting site because of the nearby Gnaraloo Bay rookery, a 7km stretch of beach where up to 510 nests a season have been recorded in recent years.
Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program project manager Karen Hattingh said the interns visited Cape Farquhar for only the second season this year but indications were that it was as important as the Gnaraloo Bay rookery.
"Because it's so remote, nobody's ever worked there," she said. "Based on the numbers so far, it looks like the Farquhar rookery could be getting the same amount of turtle breeding activity as the Gnaraloo Bay rookery, which will make Gnaraloo an incredibly significant mainland rookery."
Ms Hattingh said three species of turtles nested at Gnaraloo - loggerheads, hawksbills and greens - but it was mainly a loggerhead nesting site.
This season, more than 300 nests have been recorded at the Gnaraloo Bay rookery since monitoring began at the start of November and, with three weeks of surveys left to go, researchers hope that number will increase.