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Monday, May 12, 2014

Why save leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)?

Photo: Karkum Beach Ranger, Justin Mabo measuring the carapace of a female leatherback turtle as it was nesting.  Photo courtesy of Karkum Sea Turtle Restoration Project Committee.

Project Description

Saving, protecting and restoring critically endangered leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in a place, and time where turtles are culturally used for feasts, ceremonial rituals and for daily consumption is the most daunting task to do.
It demands commitment, and passionate desire to achieve this goal particularly in changing the mindset and attitude of our people.
Most coastal communities we visited in Madang Province, PNG in 2006 up till 2014, disclosed that they either originated from a turtle or a marine species according to their spiritual and cultural beliefs. They further raised concerns in the drastic decline of their marine resources and admitted that they themselves have contributed to the decline of its stock.
They realized that if nothing is done to save, protect and restore the turtles, or replenish their marine resources their cultural heritage and significant relationship to turtles, their marine biodiversity and their source of livelihood will soon be gone.

This urgent awakening of survival in the face of existing threats provoked the beginning of the establishment of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project in Madang.

This project is currently managed by Mas Kagin Tapani Inc. (MAKATA). MAKATA comprises of community facilitators, and technical team who are mostly volunteers engaged to carry out program activities as planned for the year to achieve our project goals. 

 1. Vision:

To ensure that endangered leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)   turtles and other endangered sea turtles and the marine resources in the Bismarck Solomon Seas are saved, protected, restored and sustainably used.

2. Mission:

Enable local communities to save, protect and sustainably harvest endangered sea turtles in accordance with the Fauna (Protection and Control) Act 1978 in ways that will improve the health and safety of their marine resources, secure their food source, sustain their cultures and improve their livelihoods.

3. Values:

3.1 Sacrifice – Sacrifice is a virtue we embrace.  Volunteers working for MAKATA must be prepared to forego their personal desires for things they want in order to dedicate their lives and service for a greater good or is of more value to our own desires.

3.2 Consensus – Reaching consensus in decision making is key to achieving community projects. Volunteers working for MAKATA must therefore reach agreement through consensus to achieve measurable work outcomes. The executive director or MAKATA’s board is empowered to make the final decision for a greater good if required.

3.3 Respect - We uphold the virtue of respect for ourselves, for MAKATA and for those we work for or interact with.  Volunteers working for MAKATA must therefore strive to respect ourselves, MAKATA, and the communities we work for or with. It entails taking due diligent care in our daily conduct both during official duty and outside of duty so as not to tarnish or discredit our own reputation, that of MAKATA or for the communities we represent or work for or with.

3.4 Give – It is in giving that we receive.  Volunteers working for MAKATA must be willing to give their best time, resources, knowledge, experiences, skills and even assets to achieve the overall vision and mission for MAKATA.  In doing so, we must be prepared to take the risks.  We should give till it hurts as Mother Theresa of Calcutta said. 

5. What is the issue? Why save turtles?

      Food source is threatened
      Top 5 endangered species on IUNC Red List
      PNG Constitution (1974): Goal 4 – We declare our natural resources & environment  to be conserved – wisely used & replenished for the benefit of future generations
      PNG’s 1997 Fauna Act -The leatherback turtle is currently the only sea turtle in PNG that is listed as protected fauna under the 1976 Fauna (Protection and Control) Act (Kula and George, 1996), which stipulates that any person who knowingly buys, sells, offers or consigns for sale, or has in possession or control of a protected animal is guilty of an offence and the penalty is K 500. Any person who takes (kills) a protected animal, in contravention of a condition of a permit is guilty of an offence and the penalty is K 40/animal.

6. How and what steps we take?
      Community entry – familiarization
      Needs Assessment – story telling
      Upon receiving an invitation from a community, we conduct socio-economic and cultural mapping survey
      Conduct marine ecological survey and document folklores, traditional conservation practices, spiritual, traditional ethical and moral values.
      Community Development / Turtle Training/ Communications/Marine Environment Education Training/ Resource Conflict Management Training/Community Livelihoo and related skills and capacity building trainings 
      Take the communities through a Community develops Conservation Deeds (CD) or Locally Managed Marine Areas process in alignment with relevant Acts, policies and regulations
      Lawyer edits CD, community laws/community and provincial government approves it
      Establish LMMA using CD or appropriate conservation tool.

7. What is Conservation Deed? Why use it?
      CD is a Formal Legal Document or Agreement (Contract) that creates a locally managed conservation area and a long-term community stake in the protection of natural resources, in ways that also meet the economic and social needs of the community.
      As a community oriented conservation area, Sect 41 & 42 of the Organic Law  on Prov. & LLGs (Consolidated to No 29 of 1998) was used
       It helps communities create and manage protected areas for recreation, scientific, conservation or sustainable use of resources.

8. Any success or positive outcomes/stories?
  November 17, 2008 – Karkum’s established LMMA – CD
√ July 29, 2013 – Kimadi/Magubem launched their marine protected area using
   customary practice
√ South Pacific Regional Environment (SPREP) delegation visited Karkum in 2010 &
                committed to support the project
√ A delegation from the National Indigenous Alliance for Land and Sea Management   
   Areas (NAILSMA) in Australia visited Karkum in 2010

9. Any challenges and steps taken to address them? 
A. Challenge:  Communities need more information
      Objective: Need to conduct more turtle training
      Action:                   1)    Writing proposals to secure funding
2)      Need for strategic planning meeting
3)      Financial Management Plan developed
4)      Fund raising strategy implemented
B. Challenge:  Independent monitoring/evaluation
      Objective:  Identify needs and solutions
      Action:             1) Identify successes/failures and                                                                                   recommendation
                                    2)  Recommendation implemented

10. Any lessons learnt?
      Worldwide, indigenous people are documenting their traditional knowledge and connections to their country
      Traditional sea and fishing rights have been recognized in Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada. 
      Indigenous Australians are constantly pursuing claims for control of their sea country.
      In PNG we need to learn from our neighbors and start doing it or big industries will continue to use our weak governance to take control of our resources and make us beggars on our own land and sea resources.
      Communities must take ownership of the process and drive it to be sustainable.
11. Any policy alignment in what we do?  We respond to:
      PNG Medium Term Development Strategy – Broad Objective 4: Natural resources & environment
      PNG Marine Management Act – Management Objectives & Principles (c) Ensure management measures are based on best scientific evidence available....
      The Coral Triangle Initiative: Promote healthy oceans by helping people manage marine resources
      5 PNG Marine Program Goals - “Priority seascapes” designated & effectively managed; Ecosystem approach to management of fisheries (EAFM) and other marine resources; MPA established & effectively managed; Climate Change adaptation measures achieved; Threatened species status improving

12. Are there any other threats?
·         Climate Change – Rising sea level is washing away turtle nesting beaches
·         Natural Resources Conflict.  Clans fighting over ownership of resources
·         Politics (village) – Certain clans oppose others or clan chief/councillor disapproves conservation of turtles or the marine resources; youths not happy with elders; lack of working together (‘wok bung pasin’).
·         Shifting from habitual practise of killing and eating turtles to conserving them
·         Economy – Challenged with the question: ‘Why save turtles if there’s no other alternative options for protein especially to sustain traditional practises.’
·         No money to sustain the project.
·         PNG Government not adhering to peoples call to STOP experimental seabed mining
·         Communities not having faith and trust in MAKATA resulting from lack of funding to sustain programs consistently

13. Background/History:

MAKATA is a not for profit advocacy NGO established in April 2009. The main reason for its 
establishment was to sustain the Sea Turtle Restoration and Protection Project (STRP) which was 
established in 2006 by Wenceslaus Magun, who was then contracted by Turtle Island Restoration 
Network (TIRN), a 501c3 non-profit organization in US as their Western Pacific Campaigner.  By 
December 2009, TIRN ceased funding this project but has supported its sustainability with the initial 
funding for its establishment.

With support from key advisory board members, pro-environmental justice individuals, local 
communities that share the beaches and waters with sea turtles, we continue to carry out activities in 
ways that also make cultural and economic sense to communities we work with.
We strive to achieve this goal by continuing our efforts to empower people to protect and restore the 
local sea turtle populations, with an emphasis on the endangered leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea).   
We do this through grassroots education, advocacy, consumer empowerment, and strategic litigation 
and by promoting sustainable local, national and international marine policies.

While sea turtles are emblematic of a wide array of marine and terrestrial resources at risk of 
exploitation in PNG, a general lack of regulation has prompted foreign fishing, mining and logging 
companies to exploit PNG’s need for revenue for a stake in the nation’s rich resources.  This affects not 
only marine life but also the future of coastal communities that derive much of their subsistence from the 

Our office is located at section 229, Lot 61, Salote Street, Tokarara in Port Moresby.   We intend to 
relocate the office to a more suitable location when we secure sufficient funds and recruit additional staff 
to cater for increase in demand for our services.

14. Partnerships and network

MAKATA works in partnership with coastal communities, TNC, WWF, CELCOR, Partners with Melanesia, PNG CLMA, SPREP, Seaweb, Mahonia Na Dari, WCS, village clan leaders, community based organisations in Madang, Madang Civil Society Organisation, Madang Provincial Government, DEC, and other sister organisations both in PNG and abroad. Through this network, MAKATA is able to share information, collaborate on different campaigns, and receive support from members in its campaign and advocacy work.
To strengthen effective and collaborative relationship with local communities where its projects are located, MAKATA has on its board of directors, representatives of the Duergo Community Development Association of Karkum village and other NGO, CBO and private sector organizations.
MAKATA’s efforts have been recognized by the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), the WWF-Western Melanesia, The Nature Conservancy, Seaweb, partner NGOs in PNG, and overseas who have supported its activities through grants and other resources. 

Our Coordinator continues to build relationship and partnership with other stakeholders and partners in PNG and in the region. 

15.  Governance:

MAKATA is governed by a board which is made up of volunteers from various agencies, local communities’ community based organisations and corporations.

16.  Target Areas/ Current Project Map:

Sumkar District, Madang Province, PNG

Our current project site is located on the northwest coast of Madang about 70 to 100 kms from Madang town in the Sumkar District, PNG. These LMMAs are located in Karkum-Mirap Conservation Area which has 508 Hectares, Kimadi Conservation Area which has 550 hectares, Magubem Conservation Area which has 924 hectares, Tokain Conservation Area which has 773 hectares, and Yadigam Conservation Area which has 736 hectares. We have also done boundary surveys for Sarang in north coast, and Mur in Rai Coast. We will do the same for new sites.

There are three coastal areas already designated under Conservation Deeds with the primary goal being to protect endangered leatherback turtles and their nesting sites in the Sumkar District. 

1.      Karkum- Mirap Conservation Area = 508 Hectares (2008)
2.      Kimadi Conservation Area = 550 Hectares; and (2013)
3.      Magubem Conservation Area = 924 Hectares (2013)

Rai Coast District, Madang Province, PNG

Our new sites include, Mur, Yamai, Baru, and Sel villages in the Saidor Local Level Government and Bom-Sagar, Lalok and Male villages within the Astrolabe Bay Local Level Government of Rai Coast District in Madang Province.
It takes about 4 to 5 hours by a 40hp dinghy to get to Mur and the neighbouring villages in Saidor LLG and less than two hours to reach Lalok and the neighbouring villages in the Astrolabe Bay LLG either by road or by boat.
Although these locations do not boast of having the highest number of leatherback turtles frequenting their beaches when the project was first established compared to the Huon coast project in the Morobe Province, PNG covering the villages of Paiawa, Kamiali, Buli and Labu Tale, it remains to be the first model sites for establishing a turtle conservation project using Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) using Conservation Deed (CD).

If funding is available we will extend our work to other provinces in PNG, based on calls received by MAKATA from local communities.

17. Current Donors:

MAKATA’s operation is entirely dependent on donor funds and internal fund raising drives. Since inception, MAKATA has floated its activities on internal fund raising drives, and funds collected from Waves Cab services.  It has also established very good partnerships with donors from different countries and within PNG. These donors include:
  1. WWF- Western Melanesia – PNG
  2. Global Greengrants Fund – USA
  3. South Pacific Regional Environment Program – Samoa
  4. Santa Monica Seafood and WiseFish – USA
  6. Pacific Development and Conservation Trust Fund – NZ
  7. The Nature Conservancy – PNG
  8. Waves Cab services
  9. Fund Raising Drive
18. Current Programs

MAKATA Inc., intends to carry out its work in 4 main programmatic areas. These include the following:
            1. Leatherback Turtle Conservation and Restoration Program
2. Marine Protected Area (Locally Managed Marine Area ) Program
3. Marine Environment Education Program (MEEP) in partnership with Mahonia Na Dari (MND) a local NGO based in West New Britain Province, PNG. 
4.      Marine Campaign Program (Seabed mining campaign, Marine Pollution, Deep Sea Tailings Placement etc).

Leatherback Turtle Conservation and Restoration Program.

This program places emphasis on the fact that the leatherback turtle population has
drastically declined and that few remnant nesting beaches along the coasts of Madang
needs to be conserved during the nesting seasons of the turtles , usually from
September to March,  so that hatchlings successfully make it back to the ocean to
replenish the population. Work has been ongoing for the last 8 years and need urgent
funding to continue the program.

Marine Protected Area Program.

Conservation of leatherback turtles also go hand in hand with setting up protected areas
for the nesting turtles and also for the adjacent marine systems. A few MPAs have been
set up however lots more work need to be done in this area and hence further funding is
needed in this area.

Marine Environment Education Program (MEEP).

This is a new additional program to MAKATA’s programs. MAKATA carried out a
feasibility study on the need for teachers and students to be educated on the
importance of the marine environment and hence the formulation of this program. This
program intends to educate teachers and students on the marine environment and build
up their capacity to understanding why marine environment is important and what
they can do in their own way to action the marine environment and also to continue to educate students and others on the marine  environment. There is a potential to reach a lot of students and teachers due to the teacher college in Madang and also the numbers of students and schools in Madang.

Marine Campaign Program

The marine area and ocean of Madang currently face major environmental threats from
major developments such as the Ramu cobalt nickel mine’s deep sea tailings, the
effluents of various canneries and factories, the deep sea mining and many more. There
is an urgent need for the community at large and the local, provincial and national
government to be well informed of these proposed developments and their effects on
the environment. This is where MAKATA is making positive input, by holding public
forums, websites etc, it is working on an effective campaign program to keep the
communities and the general public up to date with the happenings on the grounds.
Funding is urgently needed for this.

 19. Other Outstanding Accomplishments

Other outstanding achievements included a paper Wenceslaus Magun presented to an international audience at the Griffith University on the 29th International Sea Turtle Symposium in Brisbane, Australia from the 17 to 19 of February 2009.  In his talk he promoted the Conservation Deed Approach of establishing marine protected areas to protect and restore the turtle’s population in the Western Pacific region.

He also presented a paper to participants at a meeting organized by CSIRO (Australia) at the Moreton Bay Research Station, Queensland-Australia from the 17th to 19th of June 2009. His report titled: “Can direct conservation payments promote environmental conservation and livelihood enhancement in selected sites/circumstances?” This talk aimed at finding a way forward to achieving the Eight Millennium Development Goals through direct conservation payments to communities who promote environmental conservation outcomes.

Mr Magun further presented a talk at the inaugural World Indigenous Network Conference in Darwin, Australia in June, 2013.

He represented the NGO sector in PNG at the SOPAC Deep-sea Mining Conferences in Tonga and Vanuatu in 2013 where he spoke out vehemently against experimental seabed mining in PNG.

Mr. Magun also represented Community Based Organisations in PNG to express their concerns on “POST-2015 DEVELOPMENT AGENDA COUNTRY CONSULTATION – THE FUTURE WE WANT, Voices from the people of Papua New Guinea,” a documentary produced by the United Nations – PNG Office.

MAKATA’s work is documented in the “Madang Sustainable Development: A Ridges-to-Reefs Gap and Priority Analysis” document, (pages 25 and 29 respectively), Supported by RAFT, the Australian Government, The Nature Conservancy, Madang Provincial Government, PNG Government, Madang Civil Society Organisation, USAID and Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF).

20. Goal for 2014 and beyond

Statement of Objectives
Goal 1: Establish new turtle conservation sites in Sumkar, and Rai Coast Districts, Madang
Goal 2:  Build conservation ethics in students, teachers, and general public using educational awareness materials and teacher/students education program
Goal 3:  Build MAKATA’s office, staff accommodation, library, resource center, laboratory and garage

21. Appeal for Donations

Donations to support this effort can be deposited into:
Mas Kagin Tapani Association (Bank of South Pacific Waigani Branch) Cheque Account Number: 1001546953. Its SWIFT Code is BOSPPGPM.
Internal Revenue Commission’s Tax File Number is: TC 8662

22. Inquiries

For further information please
Mr. Wenceslaus Magun on:
Ph: + (675)73497984 or 
Facebook: Wenceslaus Magun or Save PNG's endangered turtles