K5,600 to help protect turtles

National, Normal

THE Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) financial assistance of US$2,000 (K5,618) to the Mas Kagin Tapani Association (also known as Makata), a community-based conservation organisation, will aid efforts to protect nests of the endangered Leatherback and Green sea turtles in the Karkum Conservation Area.
This will also help maximise hatchling production for these two species. 
The collection of important nesting data, as well as general education and awareness is also an integral component.
The Karkum conservation area, situated some 60km north of Madang, is an initiative of the Duargo Community Development Association (DCDA).
The Makata, whose name means “sea guardian” in the local Bel or Takia languages of Madang, manages and supports the initiative.
The Duargo community, comprising six villages with more than 3,000 people, decided to establish a conservation area covering their gray sand beaches to preserve the leather back turtle from extinction.
Wenceslaus Magun, Makata national coordinator, said they started the turtle conservation project in 2006 and, by last year, had motivated communities to change their habitual killing of turtles and harvesting turtle eggs.
He explained that a turtle training workshop facilitated by SPREP’s former staff Job Opu, had resulted in the DCDA forming beach rangers who are responsible for tagging turtles, recording data and protecting nests by deploying protective grids (made from bamboo, over the nests. 
He also said the beach rangers were also well-versed with turtle and wider marine conservation issues and were able to articulate these through awareness campaigns to other coastal communities along the Madang coast.
Commenting on SPREP’s assistance to the Makata, marine species officer Lui Bell said: “Assistance from SPREP to the Makata is important to as it continues to support the Karkum community’s conservation efforts.”
SPREP will continue to support both Makata and the DCDA in any way possible, with further long term assistance being sought through linking Makata with potential donors.
Bell said part of a letter of agreement which SPREP had with Makata included submission of a report documenting recommendations on needs for the improvement of the community project.
Of the seven species of the world’s marine turtles, six are found in PNG marine waters.
These include the Flatback, Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtles. Of these six, the Hawksbill, Green and Leatherback turtles are most common.
From previous survey results and anecdotal information, PNG has some of the largest remaining populations of Hawksbill, Green and Leatherback turtles in the world today.
However, these populations and especially the leatherback turtle had rapidly declined.