Help save turtles with a new tracking app

By Natsumi Penberthy | May 23, 2014

Download a new Aussie app to help protect freshwater turtle nests from feral animals.

IF YOU ARE ONE of the millions of smartphone or tablet users, you can now become part of a volunteer army that could be a game-changer for Australia’s 23 species of freshwater turtle.

If you download the TurtleSAT app (iTunes) released in honour of World Turtle Day, you will be able use the app’s picture guide and your device’s GPS to identify and record sightings, and ultimately help find hot-spots and hidden turtle breeding grounds. Those that don’t have smartphones can enlist too, by logging their turtle sightings on the website.

Freshwater turtle crisis

“There is a turtle crisis happening at the moment, with declines of over 90 percent in parts of the Murray River,” says Dr Ricky Spencer, a zoologist at the University of Western Sydney and one of the app’s developers. Foxes that prey on nesting females and their eggs, droughts and urban development are all contributing to their decline in pockets across the country.

If we lose our freshwater turtle “vacuums”, says Ricky, and their voracious hunger for gooey algae, dead material in our waterways and for young pest fish such as European carp, it will impact the health of our creeks and rivers.

Turtle-tracking app to help control feral animmals

Turtle-spotters who download the app will be helping wetland managers (many of whom will integrate the app information into their feral management regimes) to understand where to target feral animal control; the hope is reduce the number of foxes at hot spot locations during critical periods in turtle breeding seasons.

The mapping technology for this app, says Ricky, is based a similar program called FeralScan produced by the Invasive Animals CRC. FeralScan already boasts 25,000 recordings of feral animal sightings, and its information on feral animal movements will complement the information gleaned by TurtleSAT.

TurtleSAT is a collaboration of the University of Western Sydney, The University of Sydney, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Invasive Animals CRC, The Field Naturalist Society of South Australia and the Barbara Hardy Institute at the University of South Australia.

Download the app

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