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No. 19
Hello and welcome to 2015. Our first newsletter of the year kicks off with some great photos from my visit to the Gnaraloo Turtle project. We hope you all had a great holiday period and are looking forward to an exciting 2015.

With Animal Ark I am kept busy already with training courses and even have a few special projects up our sleeves (more details to follow). I hope to meet some of you at public events this year or welcome you to a training course. Either way enjoy a fabulous year.

Early in the New Year with the turkey and ham depleted, I got to spend a few days up near Carnarvon with my partner Jenny and daughter Georgia checking out the amazing Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) and the committed research group that both protect and study them.

My daughter was inspired by the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP) visit to her school, and that is how we found ourselves bumping along a dirt road 1,000km north of Perth overlooking a vast picturesque coastline with the southern parts of Ningaloo Reef within snorkel reach. The beaches are pristine, deserted and beautiful, our cabin basic but very adequate and rustic.

The Gnaraloo Station has stone cabin accommodation and camping at nearby Three Mile Camp, and is located 150km north of Carnarvon via part sealed part gravel/sand roads. The Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP) and Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program (GFACP), funded by the Gnaraloo Station Trust, with assistance from the Australian government, Caring for Country and Rangelands NRM, began in 2008. Back then most turtle nests were predated upon by ferals, specifically foxes, wild dogs and cats.

Over the last four seasons a 100% protection of nests from ferals has been achieved which is beyond fantastic. All the sea turtle species including the Green (Chelonis mydas) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) that may nest here are endangered but it is the huge Loggerhead turtles that dominate and it was Loggerheads that we saw during our visit. Under bright moonlight until the clouds enveloped us in near darkness we were fortunate enough under the expert guidance of the researchers to get close to this impressive species at their laying sites or rookeries.

As a guest at Gnaraloo or as part of the GTCP Schools program you can participate in the monitoring. We participated in 1 night and 1 morning tracking experience, but you can accompany the researchers as many times as you like.

Gnaraloo Sea Turtle Conservation logo

The wide sandy beach at Gnaraloo Bay - crowded! Photo © Animal Ark

The Gnaraloo Sea Turtle Conservation Team 2014/2015. Photo Gnaraloo

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) returns to ocean. Photo Gnaraloo

The size of turtles astounded us, Loggerheads are just huge and bulky, a massive reptile bigger than I expected. One individual was hurling clouds of sand skywards with her long flippers as she sought a suitable place to deposit her eggs. Over 300 nests are made at Gnaraloo every year making this site significant in terms of conservation value. I have the Loggerhead as our Featured Species this month so more information below.

To see a turtle now in open water is quite a rare and special thing, although you can see them regularly when you snorkel at Gnaraloo. But their rarity was not always so; around 1490 Christopher Columbus wrote on turtles near Cuba "so numerous that it seemed that the ships would run aground on them and were as if bathing in them"

In conservation terms ALL sea turtles are desperately in need of our care - their numbers have plummeted drastically in recent years due to many factors, but beach protection is ultimately essential to give them any hope of a future. Once thousands would have laid their eggs here, today far fewer return. I felt privileged to have seen them. The work here is crucial to continued survival of the species. They start hatching soon so if you can - go now or check out Gnaraloo for a visit next year. To find out more and join in yourself contact Gnaraloo, details can be found at their website You could even ask the team to visit your workplace or school. Support Gnaraloo, support turtles, boy do they need the help to ensure they survive and hopefully begin to thrive in the 21st Century.

Thanks to Melissa, Andy, Bailey, and Toby the GTCP team.

Pokey is new to science. She is a recently discovered species of Varanid or monitor lizard and is the smallest kind yet discovered. Pokey is tiny with a maximum length of 23cm, which is petite compared to the Indonesian Komodo dragon, the largest living lizard that reaches some 3 meters.

Her official title is the Dampier Peninsula Goanna (Varanus spurnus). She is carnivorous as most monitor lizards are and is reported to eat at the West Australian Museum where she has been on display crickets and dog food. Pokey welcome to science in 2015.

Pokey - new WA lizard, Dampier Peninsula. Goanna (Varanus spurnus)
Imagine living with potentially deadly Leopard cats (Panthera pardus) in and around your suburb, at night stalking you your children or your dogs. This is an ever-increasing issue in many countries as humans encroach on wild areas. In India an initiative by a citizen-researcher forest group have helped calm the public by producing a simple brochure (attached) with handy "Living near Leopard tips".

I like this kind of conservation work – sometimes a relatively small bit of education helps people understand the issues and knowledge reduces fear, so the outcome is better for both the leopards not being shot, trapped or put in a zoo and the villagers who learn to live safely with them. I once had the opportunity to handle Leopard cubs in the UK – I will never forget the awesome power and very sharp claws – I bled profusely.

Living with leopards leaflet.
Due to their toxins Cane toads (Rhinella marina) have been responsible for many native animal deaths. However, it seems that Freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnsoni) in NT have started to ‘fight’ back.

Croc expert Adam Britton and his wife Erin have made the discovery that the small freshies are eating the non toxic back legs of the toads and leaving the main body behind.

They have recorded many instances of this behaviour from Bullo and Liverpool Rivers, 500 kilometers from Darwin.

Cane toad (Rhinella marina). Photo © Animal Ark
Yes they have been the cause of several fatalities in recent years – but I think sharks get a bad press.

Our friends Andy and Laura plus their kids are on a global adventure seeking out sharks to swim with!

Check out these photos.

Laura Corbe swimming with sharks, Hawaii. Photo Juan Oliphant
Andy Corbe and daughter swimming with a Galapagos shark, photo Juan Oliphant. Ocean Ramsey swimming with a Great White, photo Juan Oliphant
LOGGERHEAD TURTLE (Caretta caretta)
Status: Endangered
The Loggerhead Sea Turtle is one of only 7 sea turtle species. They are generally a dull dark reddish brown or black on top with a yellow plastron (bottom shell).

Loggerheads can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean as well as the Mediterranean Sea. They are named after their large heads with thick strong jaws for crushing foods. They swim in coastal and open ocean waters and also estuarine habitats.

They are large with a shell (carapace) length of around 1 meter. Large specimens may weigh over 450kg. They may take food at great depths and are primarily carnivores eating jellyfish, conch, crabs, fish and occasionally seaweeds.

Breeding season in Australasian water is from October to early March, peaking in December. It is believed they can swim many thousands of kilometers but return close to the site of their own hatching to breed and lay. Females briefly come to shore to dig nests and lay their eggs in shoreline areas described as Rookeries. Up to 127 eggs can be laid that hatch approximately 60 days later.

Loggerheads are believed not to reach maturity for several decades and may live for well over 50 years.

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) returns to ocean. Photo Gnaraloo

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) returns to ocean. Photo Gnaraloo

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence

Thursday 5 February 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 6 February 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Thursday 19 February 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 6 March 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 27 March 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 1 May 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 June 2015 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 23 January 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 20 February 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 13 March 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 8 May 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 12 June 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

Public Events
Do come along and see us. Bring your family or friends as well.
The Animal Ark Roadshow will be attending the following events:

Sunday 15 March 2015
Ballajura Harmony Day
Karajini Oval by Ballajura PS, Ballajura
12pm – 4pm
Free community event. Contact City of Swan for more information.

Saturday 28 March 2015
Altone Comes Alive!
Altone Leisure Centre, Benara Road, Beechboro
11am – 4pm
Free community event. Contact City of Swan for more information.

See our diary for more dates or contact us to book.

Call (08) 9243 3044, SMS 0466 688 188 or email David or Jenny at to book.

Courses held monthly and as required plus on-site and remote site training available.