VOLUNTEERS and Indigenous rangers were engaged in hands-on learning with Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) scientists, monitoring sea turtles at an annual summer turtle and dugong training camp, during December 2012,  and January and February 2013, at Mon Repos near Bundaberg.

The training camp, run for volunteers each summer since the late 1960s, gives participants the opportunity to learn about marine turtle biology and conservation of the marine species.  Participants also take part in monitoring the annual nesting of loggerhead turtles along the Bundaberg coast.

In 2013,33 Indigenous rangers from Queensland participated in the training camp,  as part of a joint state and Commonwealth project to develop greater Indigenous involvement in sustainable management of turtles and dugongs.

Rangers from south, central and north Queensland communities attended the training camp for a week at a time in groups of six. The seven-day  workshops included ni turtle biology lectures; hands-on experience with nesting turtles, eggs or hatchlings; turtle species and track identification; monitoring and tagging; nest protect and relocation; and data recording.   Research standards, discussion of sustainable hunting and compliance issues identified by traditional owners, and planning for future training on-country were also part of the workshop sylabus.

Participants worked with scientists and volunteers in tagging,measuring and recording turtle numbers and upon course completion,interested rangers are certified to conduct turtle research and monitoring. 

Following huge storms and flooding in late January, volunteers, Indigenous rangers performed extra duties, and assisted in cleanup operations, rescuing eggs from eroding dunes, and monitoring  turtles that continued to come to lay eggs despite the eroded beach conditions.

Paricipation in the camp improves indigenous ranger skills and their ability to conduct turtle monitoring on land and sea country, thereby strengthening  the collaboration of EHP and indigenous communities.

PHOTO Rescuing damaged turtles eggs, following the ex-tropical cyclone Oswald at Mon Repos.Image courtesy of Queensland Government

Cape York NRM recently convened a meeting of 15 agencies and rangers groups involved in turtle conservation on Cape York, to plan and coordinate continuing annual efforts. Western Cape groups met at  Napranum in April with rangers from Pormpuraaw, Napranum, Mapoon and Apudthama in attedence,  joined by regional technical partners for turtle conservation.

A major forum is planned in Cairns later in the year.

Land and Sea senior rangers and coordinators from across Cape York joined by state government representatives, came together for a February meeting in Cairns to share knowledge and information across a range of conservation issues.

By Dr Col Limpus, Cheif Scientist, Threatened Species Branch, Department of Environmental and Heritage Protection