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Pacific Leatherback Project in PNG Awarded Conservation Grant

Makata receives $2,000 for community sea turtle project

The Papua New Guinea project to protect critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles that operated as a project of Sea Turtle Restoration Project for three years has received a United Nations grant to continue the work as a now-independent community-based NGO called MAKATA.

“We congratulate MAKATA on continuing this important community based marine conservation for sea turtles with the support of the international community,” said Teri Shore, Program Director for Sea Turtle Restoration Project.

The press release follows:

Turtle Conservation in Papua New Guinea: Karkum Conservation Area

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 as part of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and, by 2009, had motivated communities to change their habitual killing of turtles and harvesting of turtle eggs.

He explained that a turtle training workshop funded by STRP last year and 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.”

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.

Photo of Karkum Conservation Community courtesy of Stuart Chape
Related Link: Pacific Islands Regional Marine Species Programme 2008 – 2012
Contact Name Lui Bell

e-mail luib@sprep.org
Phone (685) 21929
Fax (685) 20231