Saving leather-back turtles in Madang

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 7th September, 2012

WAVES crash onto the grey sandy beach on the Karkum shore line in Madang Province, sounding their own rhythmic tempo.
Few meters away from the shoreline, lies a mound of sand.
A leather- back turtle has presumably nested and laid eggs.
Local rangers are being placed to keep watch against anyone going near the mound of sand until the eggs have hatched.
This would be the first time in a decade that leather- back turtle’s eggs hatched on Karkum beach.
Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys Coriacea) grow to more than two meters and weigh over 300kgs when fully grown.
They are known to dive the deepest and swim the furthest.
They are ocean voyagers, swimming for 6, 000 miles, migrating through Pacific island nations all the way to feed in California and returning to Papua New Guinea to lay eggs.
The International Union for Conservation Network (IUCN) identified leather-backs as the most critically endangered sea turtle species.
A local group Mas Kagin Tapani or Makata for short was established in June 2006 to protect the species from extinction.
Makata offered training to coastal villagers from Sumgilbar area to Bogia districts; targeting Karkum, Mirap,Yadigam, Tokain,Magubem and Kimadi Gidipasi, Murukanam and Pepaur on marine ecology, turtle biology and tagging and strategic planning.
In the years that followed, the turtle conservation project was then extended to Rai Coast and offshore islands of Madang.
National coordinator Wenceslaus Magun said the Western Pacific population of this turtle species is declining so fast that they could go into extinction before the next decade.
“The purpose of the training was to inform, educate and build the capacity of the village community to understand marine ecology”, he says.
Magun calls on local MPs from the province to help sustain Makata project sites and address threats to marine environment including the deep sea mining prospect- to be carried out by Nautilus Minerals.