ENDANGERED TURTLES NEED PROTECTION IN PNG

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Some popular species found at local markets

‘PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Kan. 13, 2009) – Senior marine officer in the conservation division bio-diversity assessment branch of the Department of Environment and Conservation Vagi Rei said turtles in Papua New Guinea, especially the leatherback are quickly being depleted.

He said turtles in Papua New Guinea had cultural, ecological and economic significance and these three factors had all contributed to certain turtles species in PNG quickly disappearing

The most common turtle species found in PNG include the loggerhead turtle (there is still much to know about this species); the green turtle (this species is popular at most markets); the hawksbill turtle (has a very low stock in PNG); the Olive Ridley turtle (not much record of this species); the leatherback turtle (only 20,000 estimated alive worldwide today); and the flatback turtle which was last reported in the Trobriand Islands and up to this time not much is known about it.

Mr. Rei has appealed to the people to help the Conservation Department protect not only the turtles but all endangered animals in PNG, including dugongs.

He said the Government’s position was "to ensure PNG’s natural and physical resources were managed to sustain environmental quality and human well-being" and the core mandate of the department is "to ensure biodiversity conservation, protection, preservation and sustainable use of the natural, cultural and historical heritage is present in our country".

Rei said that at the international level, PNG, during the Pacific Islands Forum, managed to get Solomon Islands and Indonesia to sign a memorandum of agreement (MoA) in 2005 to protect leatherback turtles’ migratory routes, feeding grounds and breeding grounds.

At the regional level, PNG and Solomon Islands have signed an MoU in 2007 with CMS to also protect our turtles, dugongs and crustaceans.

At the national level, the Environment and Conservation Department and all stakeholders are finalising management plans for turtles, dugongs and cetaceans in PNG.

Mr Rei said the media, educational institutions and stakeholders must be involved.

This will enable one to know how to describe the survival of an endangered animal, produce short stories about people’s experience on how they linked turtles with their culture, promote research findings in PNG on turtle programmes rather than going to the National Geography channel everyday, or produce and promote local TV/ radio programmes that could help in the awareness drive.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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