Illegal camping wave on Ningaloo coast in WA sparks fear of endangered turtle habitats, Aboriginal fossils


Illegal campers may have caused irreparable damage to endangered turtle habitats and Aboriginal fossils in the WA’s World Heritage-listed coastal desert, a nonprofit environmental organization says.

The chairman of the Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation, Kat Hattingh, said last month up to 80 people in 30 cars illegally camped and partied atop the fragile coastal desert.

“They may unknowingly drive over fossils and destroy things they don’t even know about” [are] there,” said Mrs Hattingh.

She said the visitors illegally camped at the ‘Heart Attacks’ site, between 3 Mile Camp and Gnaraloo Homestead – the only two sites where people are allowed to stay in Ningaloo.

A long shot of cars parked on red sand by the beach.
Illegal campers at the “Heart Attacks” location on the coast of Gnaraloo. Delivered

Ms Hattingh said people traveled outside the designated campsites to cut costs and explore.

However, she said the sand dunes of Gnaraloo contain buried fossils, Aboriginal heritage and unique geological features.

She said they were also at risk of running over the nests of endangered loggerhead turtles, which the wildlife-based charity has been working to protect for the past 17 years.

“This is all one of the reasons the coastline has been listed as a National and World Heritage Site.”

Calls for coastal action

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The Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation says illegal campers partied in the fragile coastal desert.

The coast of Ningaloo has been a World Heritage Site since June 2011, according to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction website.

Gnaraloo covers approximately 40 miles of Ningaloo’s 260 miles of coastline.

Ms Hattingh said the state government had forgotten about Gnaraloo.

“That’s a big place,” said Mrs Hattingh.

Ms Hattingh said more rangers were needed to control the increasing number of illegal campers in Gnaraloo.

A spokesman for the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction said illegal camping on the Ningaloo coast has increased.

“The closure of interstate borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased visits to the Ningaloo coastline,” the spokesperson said.

A distant shot of about 30 cars on the beach under a cloudy sky and red soil.
The Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation says about 30 cars set up this illegal “mini-camp town” on the coast last month. Delivered

The DBCA said they had since ramped up patrols along the reservation, targeting peak periods and high visiting areas.

The DBCA declined to respond to a question about whether more resources were needed to prevent illegal campers.

Instead, it said its rangers had conducted more than 250 night patrols in the area since 2015, working with the Nganhurra Thanardi Garrbu Aboriginal Corporation to increase the number of trained and authorized officers to protect the outstanding values ​​attached to the coast. .

The DBCA said its rangers routinely conducted nighttime patrols with an emphasis on compliance through education.

Not just campers, administrators

Ms Hattingh said further training of explorers would help prevent illegal camping.

She said the organization wanted to ensure that future generations can enjoy the beautiful coastline.

An endangered loggerhead turtle lies off the coast of Gnaraloo.
The Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation has been committed to protecting the endangered loggerhead turtles for 17 years. Delivered

“You can do four-wheel drive, you can fish, you can snorkel, you can surf, you can camp, but it’s all about taking care of the area by staying in the designated areas,” Ms Hattingh said.

“Let’s make sure it’s the self-proclaimed custodians who care.”

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