Cape York’s threatened turtle species are set to benefit from a new alliance, originally formed on western Cape York in 2012.
Three Indigenous councils committed to working together by taking a regional approach to the monitoring and threat management of the Flatback, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles; all three are threatened marine species.
Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council, Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council and Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council form the Western Cape Turtle Threat Abatement Alliance, which allows councils to manage turtle conservation locally, while sharing resources and coordinating works.
Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers from the participating communities have been monitoring turtle populations and controlling threats for many years. Through the Alliance, they are able to make direct decisions on management based on local knowledge and experience.
Alliance spokesperson, Robbie Morris from Pormpuraaw Aboriginal Shire Council said that in forming the Alliance, the work undertaken to conserve turtle species can be much better coordinated.
“The Alliance gives our Land and Sea Rangers a strong voice for turtle conservation. We know the country, the turtles nesting sites, and the appropriate pest management strategy against threats to Olive Ridleys, Hawksbill and Flatback turtles on western Cape York,” Mr Morris said.
“One example of how the Alliance works is where our councils will coordinate feral pig culls to make sure we get the biggest bang for our buck, and so giving turtle hatchlings the best chance at survival."
Monitoring over recent years has shown that pig predation on turtle nests and hatchlings on the west coast of Cape York is estimated at between 70 and 98 % in any given season. Turtle egg predators include wild dogs, goannas and crocodiles.
Olive Ridley turtles are listed by Queensland and Commonwealth agencies as an endangered species; Flatback and Hawksbill turtles are listed as a vulnerable species on Queensland and the Commonwealth threatened species lists.
Councilor Polly Smith from Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council said that the Cape’s regional natural resource management body is helping the Alliance to get off the ground.
“We are working closely with Cape York Natural Resource Management (Cape York NRM) to make this Alliance work, and will continue to work with each council’s preferred providers for scientific and technical support,” Cr Smith said.
“Our councils formed this Alliance so we can direct the coordination of our efforts from the ground up, not from the top down."
"Councils and ranger groups want to take the lead in the survival of our turtle populations, and we are working together to make sure it happens,” she said.
Councils involved are currently in negotiation to engage a coordinator who will work across the ranger groups to align data collection, engage scientific advisors and coordinate ranger training.
Other western Cape York Aboriginal councils have been invited to join the Alliance. The group’s next formal meeting will take place in September 2015.