Flatback turtle census on Field Island, Kakadu

A female returns to the sea | Image Ian Morris

This magnificent creature is a flatback turtle which is listed as nationally vulnerable. In fact it’s the only marine turtle that has been globally assessed as ‘data deficient’ — which means we don’t know enough about it to tell whether its populations are declining, stable or increasing.

To help fix this problem, Kakadu National Park conducts annual surveys of these turtles on Field Island, or Gardangarl as its traditionally known, near the mouth of the South Alligator River — which is critical habitat for the flatback.

Measuring a flatback turtle which has come up onto the beach at Field Island, Gardangarl, to nest

Over 20 nights traditional owners, park staff and volunteers work together to record turtle, nest and egg numbers. We also measure the turtles and microchip them.

This year we recorded 71 turtles with at least 48 nesting successfully.

Flatback turtle hatchlings. So cute!

A highlight is watching the little hatchlings making their way to sea!

The work we’re doing will help us better understand these turtles as well as monitoring the impact of threats such as climate change on their population.

Anne O’Dea, Kakadu National Park