3 Sept 2019


10 years and over 1,200 turtles.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated 10 years of working with the incredible Indigenous rangers from the Gudjuda Reference Group. It’s been an amazing decade working with such passionate Traditional Owners and Indigenous volunteers to help protect Sea Country and its iconic marine wildlife, like dugongs and dolphins, and of course gungu - sea turtles!

Over the ten years, Gudjuda has monitored, tagged and released a total of 1,316 green turtles as part of the ‘Turtle Rescue Mission’ in Edgecumbe Bay between the Whitsunday Islands and Townsville. It’s hard but important work, as the information collected by the rangers helps scientists to assess turtle health, including the spread of tumours caused by the fibropapilloma virus which can cause blindness, block internal organs and lead to death.

Healthy sea turtles often indicate how healthy the marine ecosystem is, so the work that these rangers are doing is vital to ensuring the beauty and wealth of our coasts are enjoyed for many generations to come.

Girringun and Gudjuga Rangers catching turtles at the Traditional Owners Turtle Training Camp in Bowen= Queensland
© Clint & Louise Jorgensen Photography / WWF-Aus

The turtle work happens between the months of February and November each year - and it’s not just catching and tagging turtles! They’re also responsible for recording the number of turtles that lay their eggs on local beaches, and ensuring hatchlings are healthy and reach the ocean safely.

"The best thing about our ranger program is being out on Country. Everyone has got to look after it but to me, it’s especially satisfying to see a Traditional Owner looking after their own country. For us, it’s important to take care of the waterways and species, like the gungu or turtle. It’s beautiful and we have to take care of it for generations to come. That’s why we work with the community here, cleaning up our waterways, picking up rubbish and working with scientists to monitor the numbers and health of our turtles. It’s about encouraging all of us to have a connection to Country."

- Eddie Smallwood, Elder and Chairperson of Gudjuda Reference Group

It’s not all about tagging turtles. The Gudjuda Rangers work with the community to clean up waterways and pick up rubbish that’s been left on beaches so they don’t end up polluting our oceans and choking our marine wildlife.

Martijn Wilder (WWF-Australia President) & Eddie Smallwood (Elder/Chairperson of Gudjuda Reference Group)
© WWF-Aus / Kaz Hing

“Working with Gudjuda has been an amazing experience. I’ve been privileged to be able to share the passion of Traditional Owners caring for Country and culturally important wildlife such as the gungu. Equally, I’ve also been witness to the concern shown for turtles that are obviously sick and injured. Most of all I’ve been inspired by a remarkable group of people who devote their time and energy to managing their ancient lands and seas while ensuring turtles and other marine wildlife are protected from the challenges of a modern world.”

- Darren Gover, WWF-Australia's Head of Living Ecosystems

WWF-Australia is proud to support the incredible work that the Gudjuda Rangers do to protect our Sea Country. Here’s to another 10 years!

Gudjuda works in partnership with James Cook University and WWF, the Queensland Government’s Turtle Research program, and the Queens Beach Action Group.