Primary school students have taken to one of Australia’s most famous beaches to help protect nesting turtles vulnerable to climate change and roving four-wheel-drives.
Cable Beach is home to the understudied flatback turtle, which often nest near where they were born.
After turtle nests were run over and hatchlings caught in tyre ruts, a section of the beach was closed to vehicles from December to January.
The Cable Beach Community Turtle Monitoring Program sees volunteers walk along the beach marking and recording turtle nests and tracks.
The students from Roebuck Primary School started their trek about 4am, with storm clouds and sporadic rain sweeping over sections of the coast.
Students monitor turtles
Indi, 12, was excited to help document turtle numbers and hang out with friends, despite the weather and early start.
“‘This is a good learning opportunity, and I’ve never had this chance to learn about turtles so much before,” she said.
Indi, who wants to be an astrophysicist one day, said her classmates were having fun too.
“They’re all like asking lots of questions and they’re all really curious to find out more stuff,” she said.
It was important to mark nests on the beach, because otherwise they might be impacted by humans, Indi said.
“If we don’t find them, there’s a chance that someone might run over the nest,” she said.
Environmental student group
Science teacher Leanne Blackley led the students on the walk helping them measure and record turtle tracks.
Ms Blackley, who volunteers for the monitoring program, said the students took to spotting nests naturally.
“They’re so excited, they’re seeing things before we do, they found this nest before we even got near it,” she said.
The students are part of Roebuck Primary’s Environmental Action Team, who get together for different activities.
Ms Blackley said the students got together at the start of the year to brainstorm what they wanted to do.
“This [turtle monitoring] was one of the things on our brainstorm that we had and so we’ve pursued it,” she said.
“We’ve also done quite a few other things, like we’ve introduced compost bins in our school and had environment days,” she said.
Important to traditional owners
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) Yawuru Operations Officer, Luke Puertollano, was also there imparting his knowledge.
He said flatback turtles were important to Yawuru traditional owners as a source of sustainably collected food.
“The turtle itself is meat but also people collect the eggs,” Mr Puertollano said.
Mr Puertollano hopes one day the students will bring their own kids down to the beach to help monitor turtles.
“Just being able to come out here and walk with school kids… is really important to push cultural sensitivity and cultural knowledge,” he said.
“Hopefully, this experience will instil something in them where they become those eco warriors of the future.”