Thursday, September 23, 2010

Turtle Conservation in Papua New Guinea: Karkum Conservation Area

By Clive Hawigen International Year of Biodiversity Campaign Coordinator at SPREP

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) financial assistance of US$2000 to the Mas Kagin Tapani Association (also known as Makata), a community based conservation organisation in Papua New Guinea, will aid efforts to protect nests of the endangered Leatherback and Green sea turtles in the Karkum Conservation Area to 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 the provincial capital 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 over 3000 people, decided to establish a conservation area covering their gray sand beaches to preserve the leather back turtle from extinction.

Mr Wenceslaus Magun, National Coordinator of the Makata, said they started the turtle conservation project in 2006 and, by 2009, had motivated communities to change their habitual killing of turtles and harvesting of turtle  eggs. 

SPREP's Marine Coastal Adviser Mr. Jeff Kinch meeting with Karkum Conservation Area
He explained that a turtle training workshop facilitated by one of 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 over the nests.  These protective grids are made from bamboo, which grows in clumps along the adjacent foreshore.

He added that 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 coasts.

Commenting on SPREP’s assistance to the Makata, SPREP’s Marine Species Officer, Mr Lui Bell said, “Assistance from SPREP to the Makata is important to as it continues to support the Karkum community’s conservation efforts.”

Karkum Conservation Community

 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.

Mr Bell said part of a Letter of Agreement which SPREP has with Makata includes 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 occur 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 have rapidly declined. 

Images of Karkum Conservation Area Courtesy of Stuart Chape

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