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SAVING LEATHERBACK TURTLES IN MADANG

By Bradley Mariori

A journalist and local from Madang, Wenceslaus Magun has been tirelessly advocating for the preservation of endangered leatherback turtles in the Western Pacific.

 These majestic sea creatures, now among the five most critically endangered species globally, face imminent extinction.

Magun, deeply troubled by their plight, has become a staunch defender, determined to prevent their irreversible disappearance.

Magun’s journey began in 1995 when he joined forces with the Late Sir Peter Barter.

Their expedition to Ramu Ranger involves rescuing leatherback turtles ensnared in ropes, intended for consumption or financial gain.

Overcoming past actions, Magun found redemption through the Turtle Island Restoration Network, transforming remorse into unwavering commitment and becoming a beacon of hope for these turtles.

Conservation efforts focus on protecting female leatherback turtles, crucial for their contribution of around 2,100 eggs in their lifetime.

Recent local victories include the protection of nesting sites, such as at Malas Primary School, where students safeguarded a nesting leatherback turtle, ensuring the safe journey of hatchlings to the sea after a 65-day wait.

Despite collective conservation efforts, challenges persist, exemplified by a regrettable incident where a young individual hunted and consumed a female leatherback turtle.

However, hope remains as the eggs are unharmed, and hatchlings continue their sea-bound journey.

These turtles play vital roles globally and regionally due to migration routes and feeding habitats around Australia and the California’s current ecosystem.

In Tokain 2 Village in Sumgilbar LLG, North coast of Madang, Leatherback turtle has become a symbol of unity, sustenance, and cultural harmony.

 Across generations, this revered sea creature plays a vital role, serving as traditional meat that fosters solidarity within families and the larger community.

The act of hunting these creatures showcases skill and underscores their cultural significance, believed to have mystical powers.

Traditional songs and dances in the village pay homage to these sea creatures, celebrating ancestral heritage, spiritual values, and healing practices passed down through generations.

As twilight descends on Tokain 2 Village, the Leatherback turtle transcends its role as a source of nourishment, becoming a beacon of unity, an embodiment of heritage, and a testament to the enduring power of shared culture and values in an era of rapid change.

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