Gumurr Marthakal Rangers visit Indonesia
'Aceh here we come!' said Desmond Wununmurra to his family via mobile phone when he, with fellow Ranger James Gurruwiwi, accepted the competition prize of a trip to Indonesia for the "Best Ranger Group Poster".
Desmond and James departed Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island) in early December 2010 with Ranger Coordinator Damien Clayton, GhostNets Australia/NAILSMA project officer Scott Morrison, and Yayasan Pulau Banyak (YPB) team member Maggie Muurmans.
Their epic journey saw them travelling by planes, road and boat, and even flying over and driving around volcanos to reach the YPB (Sea Turtle Conservation Project) headquarters on the island of Pulau Bangkaru on Sumatra’s north west coast. This is a region that harbours a high population of Green, Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles (all threatened with extinction) and where fishing is the main livelihood.
YPB is a not for profit organisation currently involved in several community programmes, such as sponsoring teachers for local schools. These activities gain support from the local communities for their conservation work including a comprehensive eco-tourism program.
"The opportunity to collaborate, share skills and experience new cultures has been exciting, extremely knowledgeable and very interesting, despite the language barrier," Damien Clayton, Coordinator of Gumurr Marthakal Rangers said about their experience of working overseas with another organisation.
"Desmond and James have a new appreciation that there are other groups around the world sharing the same problems and tackling them head on."
After many nights patrolling the beaches, they were honoured with the sight of two Leatherbacks, who came ashore to lay their eggs. Leatherbacks migrate hundreds of miles every year. Males never leave the water, but females come back to land for a short time (1.5 hours) to lay eggs. Each female leatherback has the potential to nest up to ten times in one nesting season, and return every 3-4 years for as long as thirty years.
The poster created by the Gumurr Marthakal Rangers detailed a 360 km long ghost net patrol which involved cataloguing, removing, burning and burying 654 ghost nets (48.5 tonne) washed up along the Wessel Islands. The team battled the weather to complete the surveys and clean up 65 km of coastline along the western side of Marchinbar island and all of Rrimbitja (Cape Wessel).
Story by S.Clayton (with input from GNA, Gumurr Marthakal Rangers and M. Muurmans).