How far does a flatback turtle swim?

Yurrwa heads to the sea after being fitted with a tracking device

Yurrwa heads to the sea after being fitted with a tracking device

Every year Kakadu staff, traditional owners and volunteers camp on Gardangarl (Field Island) and study the turtles as they come ashore to nest. Last August we fitted satellite tags to two nesting females, Manbiri and Yurrwa, before they returned to the water, and we’ve been following them ever since.

A female laying her eggs on Gardangarl (Field Island)

A female laying her eggs on Gardangarl (Field Island)

We’ve been monitoring flatback turtles on Gardangarl (Field Island) for over 20 years so we know Manbiri has laid many clutches of eggs. Since she was tagged in August she has travelled more than 3,600 kilometres, around the Coburg Peninsula to Groote Eylandt. Her satellite tracker will help us learn where she feeds between and after nesting.

Yurrwa has loyally returned to nest at Gardangarl since 2004. Since leaving Gardangarl she’s travelled nearly 6,000 kilometres, past Groote Eylandt and east, past Mornington Island.

About 60 days after laying the hatchlings dig their way out of the nest and head to the sea

About 60 days after laying, the hatchlings dig their way out of the nest and head to the sea

Although this is only a very small sample size these two turtles are helping us understand how flatback turtles from the Northern Territory and Queensland are connected, such as their foraging areas, shared migration area and the importance of the gulf region to flatback turtles. The tags are well attached and still transmitting although it’s possible Yurrwa’s had a small satellite glitch when she was recorded to the north east.  We’re pretty sure she didn’t hitch a ride on a boat!

Learn more about the turtles being tracked, and watch animated routes of the last 14 days of movement at seaturtle.org. The project also runs a wildlife adoption program where animal lovers can show their support for wildlife conservation by adopting a satellite-tracked animal.

Anne, Kakadu National Park

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