By NATALIE LAVI
IN an effort to protectone of the world’s unique freshwater creatures, the pig-nosed turtle, a man from Waira Village in Kikori in the Western Province has defied the traditional norm of his people andsegregated his own landto protect the nesting sites of the turtles.
Forty year old, Frank John owns Wau Creek, a haven for majestic diverse creatures like the birds of paradise, amphibians, death adders and brown tree snakes and fish. The creek is carved perfectly with sandbanks that create an ideal nesting ground for the pig-nosed turtles that travel upriver from the delta every year to nest.
The land once served as a traditional hunting, fishing and harvesting of sagoarea for theRupahi Clan of Waira village.Today it is a sanctuary for the pig-nosed turtles.
Prior to John’s involvement with conserving the Pig-nosed turtle, known as Piku in the native language of the people of Kikori, he recalls, “We hunted Piku for its meat to eat and sell. We didn’t know that our hunting may have been contributing to its decrease in numbers. We also did not know that it was an endangered species.”
He has built aconservation station in Wau Creek to protect the turtles. The station is promoting sustainable income generation in protected areas by opening up thecreek to scientific research and his brothers, who are also landowners of Wau Creek have joined forces with him to help run the station.
The Rupahi Clan are now in the process of gazetting Wau Creek as a protected area with the PNG Government in the bid to continue to protect Papua New Guinea’s pig-nosed turtle.
John’s passion for conservation work began 10 years ago when he first came in contact with a biologist specialized in freshwater turtles, Dr Carla Eisemberg.
Armed with just a grade six education, his eagerness to help save endangered species has opened up opportunities he never imagined.
His work with Piku’s has advanced his personal development and has increased his knowledge and confidence in this area of conservation enabling him to present his work to both national and international conservationists.
In 2017 John was invited to participate in Communication Conservation meetings in Port Moresby, for World Wildlife Day promoting protection of the pig-nosed turtle and talking directly with Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA).
He is also part of ExxonMobil PNG’s biodiversity offset program which conducts biodiversity surveys at Wau Creek site and he supports Lower Kikori engagements by participating in community meetings.
ExxonMobil PNG has a strong focus on conserving PNG’s unique environment and protecting its biodiversity. It has been working with the University of Canberra to further support conservation in the Kikori delta area to protect Piku– the pig-nosed turtle.
- Natalie Lavi is a Contractor/Public and Government Affairs for ExxonMobil PNG Limited.