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Monday, October 15, 2012

Villagers empowered to save turtles

Acknowledgement

This is the second workshop of its kind that we have undertaken in Madang targeting community based turtle conservation groups. We have started slowly to save the iconic mariner, the great leatherback turtle and other marine turtles, along the nesting coasts of Madang. Despite numerous obstacles, the message on the endangered species and many threats it faces throughout its life is slowly getting across along the Madang Coastal Communities. And for this we thank the communities of Karkum, Mirap, Tokain, Malas, Kimadi, Magubem, Murukanam and Pepaur who have taken the initiative to do something to save this endangered species. We are very grateful that you had time to attend the training workshop.
We especially thank the Magubem and Kimadi Communities for hosting the workshop
We also sincerely thank the mothers of Magubem and Kimadi who made sure our stomaches were full for the whole week that we were there. You have a beautiful undisturbed beach. May you save it for your future generations and may your traditions and customs stay alive.

Introduction

Sea turtles of today have changed little from their ancient reptilian ancestors that appeared on earth millions of years ago before humans. For many years, humans have been exploiting turtles for food and decorative ornaments. In the last 200 years or so, the uncontrollable harvests of adults and juveniles and turtle eggs have caused sea turtle population worldwide to drastically decline. The remaining population are critically endangered and very close to extinction.
Of the seven of world’s marine turtles, six occur in the PNG marine waters. These include the Flatback, the Green Turtle, the hawksbill, leatherback turtle, the loggerhead and Olive Ridley. Of these six, Hawksbill, Green turtle and the leatherback turtle are most common. From previous survey results and anecdotal information, PNG has some of the largest remaining populations of hawksbill, green turtle and Leatherback turtle in the world today. However these populations and especially the leatherback turtle have rapidly declined.
Marine turtles have lived over 100 millions of years. They grow slowly and take between 30-50years to reach sexual maturity. Some live to be over a 100years old.
All marine turtle species are experiencing serious threats to their survival. The main threats are pollution can change to environment – especially reefs and nesting areas. Marine turtles are also killed by entanglement in marine debris, incidental catch in active fishing gear, predation by feral animals, changes to habitat and food sources and indigenous hunting.
Marine turtles migrate long distances of up to 3000 km between nesting beaches and home foraging grounds so that impact on animals in one region have far-reaching implications for populations that spun local, regional and national boundaries.
Marine turtles have traditionally had strong cultural linkages to local communities along the coastal areas of PNG. To maintain these cultures drastic decline in turtle populations must be able to be put to a stop.
Many beaches and near shore reefs along the coastal areas of PNG are home to the marine turtles. While turtle conservation programs have been initiated in a few parts of PNG, large areas although significant in nature lack turtle conservation programs. It is in these areas that local consumption of turtle for eggs and meat go on without saving some of these turtles and eggs.
In 2006 STRP carried out an awareness campaign to save the turtles on the Madang beaches. This was followed in 2007 by STRP and the community of Karkum getting together to set up conservation areas along the beaches to save the nesting marine turtles and other marine resources and habitats under various degrees of threats.
This training workshop is the second of its kind and a follow-up of the activities and interests generated so far in turtle conservation and management with the Madang Community. The Communities have indicated that they wish to go one step further in turtle conservation and begin to develop action plans to tag and monitor nesting turtles during the nesting season. Hence this training workshop was carried out to meet their requirement.
The first workshop was organised by the Makata Inc and hosted by the Karkum Community of Madang. The workshop ran from the September 19th – September 23rd 2009 and the target audience of the workshop included Madang community members and representatives from Community based organisation. There were 40 participants at this course.
This second workshop was undertaken in Magubem Village, Madang with a total of 40 participants and ran from the 1st – the 6th of October 2012..

1.1 Aims and objectives

The objectives of the training workshop were as outlined:
• Exposing participants to turtle biology and conservation
• Instructing participants on turtle tagging and monitoring protocols. Theory and Practical
• Developing a simple action strategy and management plan for turtle conservation and management
• Exposing the participants to laws protecting endangered marine species
• Exposing the participants to the use of awareness campaigns to educated communities on the turtle conservation.
• Networking communities with each other and in country turtle specialists so as to progress sustainable management of marine turtles.
The training workshop intended to enhance the capacity of Madang communities’ members who are developing a turtle management program in Turtle Conservation and Management. It specifically introduced participants to turtle tagging, data recording and compiling of basic information to monitor turtles that frequent their shores and near shore marine turtles habitats.

1.2 Expected Outcomes

Expected outcomes of the workshop are as listed below.
• Participants have been exposed to turtle tagging and monitoring protocols and are comfortable to begin turtle monitoring including tagging and documentation of nesting data on their nesting beaches.
• Participants are well versed with turtle and marine issues and are able to articulate through awareness campaigns to the coastal communities of the Madang coasts.
• A turtle conservation and management network is established and information flow and exchange is initiated and maintained.
• Participants of the training workshop complete the training and are awarded training certificate.

1. Course Contents.

The training workshop was divided into 6 sessions and presentations and discussions were centred on this. The sessions are as listed below.

Session 1: To introduce marine turtle ecology to the participants that will include:
• Marine environment
• Marine turtle biology / life cycle
• Marine turtle nesting ecology

Session 2: To introduce Marine turtle Species found in PNG waters
• Marine Turtles species in PNG waters
• Marine turtle Distribution in PNG waters
• Status of Marine Turtles in PNG
• Current Turtle programs in PNG

Session 3: To introduce turtle tagging and data collection protocols
• Marine turtle tagging
• Various tags used
• Data sheets
• Satellite tracking
• Databases
• Practical application to turtle tagging and data collecting

Session 4. Developing a turtle Conservation Management Plan
• Strategic planning and workplan
• Management planning

Session 5. Marine Turtle Protection under PNG legislation
• Fauna Protection and Control Act (1978)

Session 6. Education and Awareness on Marine Turtle Conservation Programs
• Education and awareness ..........WHY???
• Methods/ Avenues
2. Outcomes of the Workshop.

Participants began arriving on Monday 1st of October. Registration began on Tuesday (2nd Oct) morning.

Day 1. Tuesday 2nd October 2012

An opening ceremony was done at 9.00am to open the workshop. The Chairman of Gildipasi, Mr Peter made a few remarks on the importance of creation and followed this with a prayer. This was followed by a few remarks by Wenceslaus Magun, the MAKATA Program Director.

Following the opening ceremony, participants were asked to introduce themselves. Participants’ number at the workshop was about 40 and this included about 10 female participants allowing for gender balance at the workshop.

The training proper began at 9.00am. The participants were introduced to the marine environment. These included the major habitats such as mangroves forests, seagrass beds, the coral reefs and the pelagic or deep waters. Examples of organisms on each habitat were given. There was great emphasis on the “connectivity” of the marine systems and the need to consider this connectivity when designing a management regime for these systems. Water currents playing a major role in disbursement of larvae etc of marine organisms was also highlighted. Turtle migration and feeding was also linked to marine connectivity.

Marine turtle biology was introduced next. The participants were introduced to the life cycle of the marine turtles. From the nesting behaviour to hatchling going into the sea, growing up on the sea and the migration to feeding sites and returning to nesting beaches as matured adults. Marine Turtle nesting ecology was presented to the participants highlighting nesting behaviours and beaches.

Marine Turtle species of the oceans were introduced and all seven species of marine turtles were introduced briefly. The common 3 species (hawksbill, green turtles and the leatherback turtle) were discussed thoroughly as more time were spent on these 3 species and also the fact that they were very common in PNG marine waters. Current turtle programs in PNG were also presented. This included the Huon Coast Leatherback program and the Milne Bay tagging program.

Marine Turtle Species in PNG waters and their distribution were then presented to the participants. The participants were informed that there has been no systematic update on the distribution of the turtle species in the PNG waters since the last distribution survey done by Sylvia Spring in 1978. Information from Sylvia’s survey indicated that Greens and Hawkbills were common throughout PNG waters while Leatherback was restricted to the northern coast of PNG mainland and occasionally were found in the New Britain’s, New Ireland and Manus Islands beaches during nesting seasons.
For each presentation, discussion time was set aside for questions and comments. There were a good number of discussions and comments. Traditional knowledge was also highlighted by the participants on their knowledge of the marine environment and especially on the marine turtles.

Towards the end of the day there was a recap and a brief evaluation of the presentations and the workshop ended for day at 4.30pm. All in all the participants understood and grasped the presentation well

Day2. Wednesday 3rd October 2012

Day two began at 8.30am with a recap of the previous day’s presentation. This was followed by a couple of presentations on turtle tagging and monitoring protocols throughout the day.

Presentations under this session included: Turtle tagging protocols, various tags that are used, turtle monitoring datasheets, and various turtle databases and turtle management programs in PNG and the region. Under turtle tagging protocols, participants were instructed on the proper application of various tags used including the metal tags, the PIT tags and the satellite tracking systems. Advantages and disadvantages of this various tags were highlighted. Various data sheets were also introduced to the participants including: “turtle encounter and nesting turtle datasheet”, “nest “datasheet, Nesting Beach ground survey”..etc. The participants were informed that the Turtle Encounter and Nesting Turtle Datasheet” was ideal for the purpose of the turtle tagging program that is being initiated along the Madang coast.

The participants were also introduced to the 2 main database in the region including the SPREP database, The Queensland Parks and Wildlife marine turtle database (Col Limpus) . It was rather unfortunate that samples of the two databases were not available at the time of the workshop and so could not be demonstrated to the participants.

Later in the afternoon, participants had a practical demonstration session on the handling and tagging of marine turtles and the recording of data. The session went very well and the participants were able to grasp the practical application of tags and documentation of data.

Time was also set aside for questions, comments, and clarifications on the presentations. In general, the session was very constructive and also a lot of information not covered under the formal presentations was covered under this session.

After an evaluation of the day’s sessions, the workshop wrapped up at 5.00pm.
Day3. Thursday 4th October 2012

Day 3 began with a recap of the previous day’s presentation. This was followed by the session set for the day.

Day 3 session was basically introducing the participants to strategic planning of various programs and especially Day 4. Friday 5th October 2012
where the participants were tasked to develop a Turtle Management Plan for the marine turtle program for their respective communities.
The following topics were covered under this session:
• Strategic planning (vision, mission...etc)
Work planning
Issues
Thematic mapping of issues
Developing a Management Plan

The participants were introduced to basic strategic planning and then taken through a strategic planning exercise using their community oriented turtle program to develop Workplan for their community programs. For most of the participants it was a first time to go through a strategic planning process but they were very enthusiastic and had no problems coping with the exercise.

The strategic planning exercise took the whole day and had to continue on to early part of day 4.

Day 4 ended at 5.30pm.


Day 4 began at 8.30am with a recap of day 3. Participants were then allocated time to continue completing their community Workplans. Participants divided into 4 main communities to undertake this exercise. They were then recalled back to do presentations on their draft workplans. It should be noted here that even given the fact that they had no previous experience in developing workplans they did come up with workable plans. Refer to Annex 4 for draft Workplan.

A couple of video presentations on turtle management were then shown to the participants. At the end of these sessions, questions and comments were invited from the participants. As usual with comments from other previous sessions, comments provided in this session were very constructive and lessons and experiences were shared in this session.

The final two sessions were squeezed into the afternoon session. This included the relevant laws and legislation protecting turtles and how to go about developing an effective awareness campaign on turtle conservation.

Under the PNG laws on wildlife protection, participants were introduced to the Fauna Protection and Control Act (1978), relevant Policies and the Wildlife Management Areas concept under the Fauna (and Flora) protection and Control Act. Various sections under the Act were introduced. Discussion centred on the issue of enforcement. Enforcement and/or rather lack of enforcement of this Act under the Department of Environment and Conservation have been an ongoing issue. It was also noted that regulations under this Act pertaining to endangered, restricted take, and/or protection of endangered species were not very specific in terms local take or harvest of these resources. All in all the discussions and comments brought forward under this session went very well and opened up minds of the participants.

Under the session on “Effective Awareness Campaign”, participants were introduced to Education and Awareness as an effective mechanism or tool that is currently utilised to drive home information and also increase communities and general public knowledge on the issues associated with conservation management. Topics under this session included: why education and awareness?, methodologies, getting the message across, target audiences and effective awareness campaigns. Most participants at the workshop has had previous and varying experiences in undertaking awareness campaigns on environmental and conservation issues out to the general public and communities and are well versed. This session strengthened and somewhat enhanced their capacity to undertake more awareness campaigns. Discussions under this session went well and were again very informative.

An evaluation was undertaken following the session on Education and Awareness followed by a final evaluation of the training workshop. More than 40 participants attended this workshop.

The training workshop was officially closed at 5.30pm on Friday, 5th October 2012. A small official ceremony was undertaken to close the workshop followed by refreshments.

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