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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 26) - The Department of Environment and Conservation and Nature Conservancy have decided to join forces to ensure the leatherback, the giant marine turtle, does not become extinct.

Leatherback turtles are protected species under the Environment Act, but there is no one on the ground to enforce the law. This has led to concerns that the turtle stock might be wiped out.

The department’s assistant Secretary for Wildlife Enforcement Barnabas Wilmott said the act only allows for hunting by traditional method for consumption only, and not for commercial purposes.

Wilmott was speaking during the presentation of a laptop computer by environmental group Nature Conservancy to the department in Port Moresby last week. He said the computer would be used in the department’s marine turtles conservation program.

It would also be used to monitor the movements of the turtles by satellite and the tags that were put on them.

During the presentation, Nature Conservancy’s director Melanesia Paul Lokani said they must work together to protect the turtle species.

He criticized those involved in commercial fishing using long line and gill nets as the biggest threat to these species.

Leatherbacks are the largest living turtles that grow to about 2.1 meter in length and weigh up to 365 kg.

Unlike other turtles, it has no visible shell, but has a carapace made up of irregular bony plates covered with a leathery skin.

January 27, 2005

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