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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Turtle tagging and Monitoring, Madang

7-11th November 2012

Report compiled by Job Opu


Many beaches and near shore reefs along the coastal areas of PNG are home to 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.
Mas Kagin Tapani Inc., a local CBO based in Madang began mobilising communities in Madang in 2007 to save the critical endangered leatherback turtles that were nesting on their beaches. These beaches are situated to the northern side of Madang towards Bogia.
The first Turtle Conservation workshop was organised by the Makata Inc and hosted by the Karkum Community of Madang. The workshop ran from 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 workshop introduced participants to basic marine biology, turtle tagging and monitoring, developing work plans to address turtle conservation and education and awareness on turtle conservation and other marine issues.
A second workshop was undertaken in Magubem Village, Madang with a total of 40 participants and ran from the 1st – 6th of October 2012..
This training workshop was 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 Communities. 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.
This follow-up trip was basically to take the theory and put it into practical by patrolling the nesting beaches to tag turtles and document data.

Day 1. 7th November 2012
The marine turtle specialised arrived at Magubem Village at 2.00pm from Port Moresby via Madang. He met with Peter, Chairman of Gildipasi CBO. They arranged to meet with the rest of the beach rangers from the main 4 communities the next morning.
Meanwhile plans were made to begin the exercise later that evening. The specialist then briefed Peter and a few selected field rangers from Magubem Community to start patrolling the nesting beaches that night.
Equipment were then checked and laid out. These included the following:
• Turtle tags and applicators
• Turtle datasheet and clipboards. Pencils.
• Torches and batteries
• Measuring tapes (3 mtr in length)
• Raincoats (in the event of rain)
The Magubem team started the patrol at 8.00pm and ended at 2.00pm. The weather was overcast and there was slight drizzle.
No nesting turtles were encountered. However the team came across the tracks of a green turtle. It seem the green turtle came and did some crawls on the beach but did not nest. We believe the sand substrate was too hard with some small pebbles hence no nesting took place.
Further on down the beach the team came across an old leatherback nest which has been dug up by some locals and eggs taken. The nest seems to be about a month old.
At 1.30pm the drizzle was getting bigger and heavy drops of rain were felt, hence the team had to abandon the patrol at 2.00am and head back to Peter’s hamlet (where the team were housed).

Day 2. 8th November 2012
On day 2 the specialist and the beach rangers gathered at the Magubem Community hall and the specialist went over turtle tagging and monitoring protocols for the team The following topics were covered:
• Sites for beach patrols
• Turtle species to target– Leatherback turtle and green turtles
• Tagging methods and the part of the turtle to tag.
• Demonstration on use of tags and applicator
• Turtle data sheets

The session lasted the whole morning with questions and answers and clarification on all aspects of the turtle research. At the end of the session the team felt that it was ready to undertake beach patrols and start turtle tagging and monitoring program.

After the overview of the above topics the equipment were brought out and divided into the 4 major beach groups corresponding to their area and beach.

The team then left for their respective areas. The teams made a commitment to begin their programs at night.
The Magubem team (with the turtle specialist) were to cover the nesting beaches that came under the Magubem community, However this did not eventuate as there was heavy rains beginning in the afternoon and lasting all night. The heavy rains stopped the team from going out at night to patrol the beaches.

Day 3. 9th November 2012
Early the next day, the sun was shining so the Magubem team including the specialist took a walk along the nesting beaches to check if any turtles came up to nest. After a long two kilometre walk along the beach no signs of nesting were noted on the beach, hence we concluded that no turtle came up to nest on the beach last night.
After checking the beach the team went back to basecamp and went over notes and tagging equipment.
Later on in the afternoon the team prepared for another beach patrol.
After dinner and equipment check the team left for the beaches at about 8.00pm.
The team started at the mouth of River Dibor and walked northwards along the beach. There was almost 100% cloud cover hence no stars were noted. The tide was coming in and huge waves were pounding on the beach
The team spend about 8 hours on the beach patrolling up and down. However no turtles were encountered.
At about 4.00am in the morning the team decided to call it a night and headed back to the base camp.

Day 4. 10th November 2012
On the morning of the fourth day the beach rangers met again and had a review of the past nigh activities.
Plan was again made to coordinate work with the other beach rangers from the other groups so they could patrol in synchrony throughout their own beaches and meet at a central point through the night so that this would ensure all sectors of the long beach was covered.
Turtle information and beach census data from the research work onwards will be collated and sent to the turtle specialist to document and report on.
The specialist then left for the Madang.


In conclusion, expected outputs of this trip were partly achieved.
Material and equipment for the “turtle tagging and monitoring” program for the communities were divided equally among the 4 major communities corresponding to the number of group of beach rangers as well.
The rangers were also taken again through the protocols of tagging and monitoring and documentation of turtle data. The principles were reinforced amongst the beach rangers.
The turtle specialist led patrols at night with the beach rangers to give them experience of observation nesting turtles at night.
The only setback was that the team did not encounter any nesting turtles during the short visit by the specialist. This would have been an opportunity to actually witness tagging as all beach rangers have never witnessed let alone tagged and compiled data on a turtle before.Marine Species Specialist, Job Opu conducting turtle tagging and monitoring exercise in Dibor, Madang. Long term tagging and monitoring exercise can be done if we are adequately supported. We therefore call on relevant government agencies and partner organisations to come to our assistance to make this exercise successful and sustainable.


  1. That's great news. I worked in Madang for a long time. I also worked in Vanuatu where in one project they had turned Turtle conservation and village stay into a great tourism project. I think there could be scope to involve tourists at some stage.

  2. We empowered Karkum communities to build their village guest house and linked them up with a tour company. Since 2008 they had received more than 3 groups of students from Denmark. The Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Mr Ian Kemish, the South Pacific Regional Environment Program delegation, and many other international and local tourists did visit Karkum. Unfortunately, lack of proper management training of this golden opportunity led to the disruption of this core economic spin-off. They are now in the process of revisiting their Conservation Deed and find solutions to some of the challenges they had faced in the five years since the establishment of their conservation site. We hope they find a path that will bring them all together to sustainably manage their resources and reap the benefits fairly. Stroll down to see their village guest house story. On our path we have also learn a few lessons about how to achieve conservation outcomes whilst trying to balance it with community livelihood projects.