Cape York has a large and stable turtle population, however, to the south of Archer Point the turtle population density declines, due to increased industrialisation and erosion. Therefore, Archer Point plays a pivotal role in ensuring the southern movement of healthy populations, rather than an unhealthy movement of declining populations. The Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre was set up in response to the growing number of sick and injured turtles being reported and the passion of our people to ensure a sustainable population of this iconic species.
The Yuku Baja Muliku Ranger group have recently been funded to build a much needed Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. This will be manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week to care for any sick or injured turtles. Currently, we struggle due to the high costs of feeding and maintaining the service and we have therefore made this program a priority for our private fundraising efforts.
A well resourced centre has the potential to service the whole Cape York region.
To date the Yuku Baja Muliku Rangers have rescued 16 turtles and 5 have been released. By increasing our funding and the scale of this project many more can be saved. We envisage this service playing a pivotal role in helping to strengthen the resilience of our turtle populations as they continue to face increasing threats.
Monitoring Sea Grass Beds:
The Yuku Baja Muliku Rangers have been monitoring the sea grass beds at Archer Point since 2008 and they have noticed a dramatic change in the quality and quantity of the sea grass beds. The surrounding areas adjacent to the sea grass beds are undeveloped national parks and Aboriginal freehold, therefore they have had minimal human impact.
Although seven sea grasses have been identified in the bay, the July 2012 monitoring found that only two of these grasses are still present. This decline has been the result of sand deposits from adjacent creeks, major cyclone events and drastic flooding in the South. The rangers have noticed not only a decline in sea grass species, but also the quantity of the grasses.
Dugong and turtle feeding trails were traditionally very common in these sea grass beds, but recently no trails have been present. Dugongs have the ability to move to where there is more food to keep feeding. However, the green sea turtles return to the same feeding ground every year and they do not go looking for another food source when their food supply diminishes. Hence, there has been an increase in sick and hungry turtles up and down the east coast of Queensland, which were once vital turtle feeding grounds.
Development of Visitor Infrastructure:
For several decades prior to the re-acquisition of our homelands the land was held as a land bank by a developer (the notorious Cairns based developer George Quade). The land was unmanaged, remained vacant and was used by locals and tourists in a hazardous and damaging way. Poorly designed bush campsites, no litter collection, no toilets, no walking tracks led to disrespectful use of the region and left a legacy of litter, erosion and damage through firewood collection.
Our current priorities include the development of walking tracks and properly managed campsites to help break this legacy and provide a safer, more hygienic and pleasant experience for visitors. We are currently developing a series of walking tracks along the coast and through forest areas as first stage pioneers of the proposed Cape York Dreaming Track. This project will eventually see a series of world class walking tracks developed throughout Cape York. Our track will provide a range of walks from one hour loops through to day and overnight experiences. A designated camp ground consisting of 20 sites at Archer Point is envisaged, with camping fees helping to pay for land and sea management, sanitation, rubbish removal, cooking and other associated activities. Future opportunities for budding Yuku Baja Muliku entrepreneurs could include the creation of cabins, guided walks, fishing trips, cultural talks, or even a wilderness lodge.
Pest and Weed Management:
The Yuku Baja Muliku rangers are working with a number of community groups to further their knowledge and management of pests and weeds. A five year Pest, Plant and Feral Animal Management Plan has also been developed in order to identify pests, plants and feral animals in the area and the best way to control them in order to ensure economic and environmental viability, protection of cultural sites, effective maintenance of water quality and the promotion of biodiversity. This has included erecting exclusion fences to prevent feral pigs and cattle from degrading and damaging water sources. Currently, six areas are being monitored for feral pigs and three traps have been installed at different locations and in different seasons. The rangers have also been carrying out ongoing weed management, targeting hymenachne, lantana, sensitive weed, knob weed and giant sensitive plants.
The Yuku Baja Muliku Rangers have been involved in controlled burning of fire tolerant vegetation. Using traditional fire burning techniques helps to promote regrowth which promotes wildlife habitat, helps reduce fuel loads, improves safety, opens up country for access, and assists plants that need fire to propagate. Yuku Baja Muliku country is targeted every year by arsonists and the implementation of early burns is helping to protect the country and neighbours. Furthermore, fire management reduces the impact from wildfires that promote the invasion of weeds and burn vast areas of country which destroys some plants and animals.
The Yuku Baja Muliku Cultural Heritage Team have been working with the rangers to record anything of cultural significance, such as story places, sacred sites, scar trees and shell middens which are photographed, recorded and entered into a database. Since June 2012, nine sites have been entered into the database and further sites are to be added in the future.
The Yuku Baja Muliku rangers have been working with their Cultural Heritage Manager to develop seasonal calendars to assist with bush food seasons and fire management seasons. The rangers have also hosted a Traditional Owner on Country Camp to enable Traditional Owners to return to country. There were over 50 attendees, rangers and Traditional Owners present at the camp and it provided an opportunity for elders to share their knowledge of foods, plants, the area and stories. It also provides an opportunity to assess the work that has been completed and identify areas that need further protection and work.
The rangers have also been working with Traditional Owners to develop their TUMRA and Cultural Management Plans. In regards to TUMRA the Traditional Owners have stipulated that turtle and dugong cannot be hunted until a permit system is in place to ensure effective management.