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Threatened Species Commissioner Talks Turtles in Cairns

Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner, Dr Sally Box, will visit Cairns to discuss endangered western Cape marine turtles with the Western Cape Turtle Threat Abatement Alliance (WCTTAA) – a remarkable collaborative initiative made up of five western Cape Indigenous Ranger groups who stand between the turtles and localised extinction.

Dr Box, who will meet with WCTTAA team who are holding their end - of - year meeting in Manunda on Tuesday, 10 December 2019, said she was looking forward to meeting the Alliance.

‘It will be wonderful to meet with local Indigenous Ranger groups who are undertaking highly successful on-ground work on Western Cape York to protect marine turtle nests,’ she said.

Cape York NRM’s Kerri Woodcock, who coordinates the Alliance, said it would be a privilege to share the success of the collective with the Threatened Species Commissioner.

‘Dr Box helps raise awareness of Australia’s many threatened species and the threats they face, and works collaboratively with a broad range of stakeholders to help protect plant and animal species from extinction,’ Kerri explained.

‘Like her, WCTTAA Rangers, representing Apudthama/Northern Peninsula Area, Mapoon, Napranum, Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama, work together to raise awareness of, and protect vulnerable, or endangered, marine turtle species, from localised extinction.

‘Through collaboration and coordination, these Ranger groups have been able to reduce feral pig predation of turtle nests and eggs to an average of 10 percent of all nests on monitored beaches. This is down from around 90 percent of nests destroyed by feral pigs in the early 2000s when the scale of this threat was first quantified.

‘All the turtles which the Rangers protect - through feral pig management programs, nest cages which protect nests, eggs and hatchlings from feral pigs, and annual turtle monitoring programs - are on the national threatened species list.

‘WCTTAA Rangers are literally the only thing standing between these turtles and localised extinction.’

Kerri said one of the most remarkable things about WCTTAA’s delivery model of this threatened species program is its relative low cost and high impact.

‘Because the Rangers are already working on country, the WCTTAA is able to provide the coordination and support for them to achieve this level of turtle protection work under their existing funding models. So for the price of a coordinator and a targeted feral animal management program, we have five Indigenous Ranger groups working day and night to protect the marine turtle populations on the western Cape.’

‘We are excited to share the successes of this smart and collaborative program with the Threatened Species Commissioner tomorrow.’

WCTTAA is supported by Cape York NRM and is funded by the Nest to Ocean Turtle Protection Program, a joint initiative of the Australian and Queensland Governments.