TURTLE FIRST RESPONSE
Yuku Baja Muliku recognised a need for a rehabilitation centre after Cyclone Yasi severely impacted the turtle feeding grounds off Archer Point and surrounding areas in 2011. The emerging sea grass was nearly wiped out which caused the local turtle population severe stress. Thus, they took it upon themselves to establish a rehabilitation centre at Archer Point. Caring for the turtles was a full time job for the rangers and at times, the rangers would respond to calls regarding sick and injured turtles multiple times a week.
Our priority is to make the Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre fully functioning with a long term secure funding base. The Yuku Baja Muliku Rangers are currently supporting the Archer Point Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in house, through their own personal contributions, subsidies through their ranger program and some small donations. It costs approximately $100.00-150.00 per turtle, per week to feed a turtle at the rehabilitation centre. Money that is donated assists the rangers to improve the facilities, pay for food for the turtles and assists with veterinary costs.
Turtle and dugong play a significant part in Indigenous culture and the right to hunt is seen as an assertion of cultural identity. The animals also hold a high economic value to communities, because they provide food in substitute for meat which is often expensive to obtain. However, the Yuku Baja Muliku people have established a moratorium to prevent hunting, while they research the stability of turtles in the area. If the numbers become stable the rangers would like to train the community in sustainable harvesting practices.
More and more turtles are being reported by tourists and local fisherman as either dead or in serious need of rescue, due to starvation and malnourishment.
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Video kindly donated by Sean Williamson from the Leatherback Trust.
Posted by Marine Conservation Society on Monday, 4 December 2017
The Yuku Baja Muliku Rangers have been able to rescue and treat turtles, including those that have been injured by severe boat strike and those with floaters disease. To date the Yuku Baja Muliku Rangers have rescued 16 turtles and 5 have been released. You can see footage of releases on you tube if you search ‘Archer Point Turtle Rescue’. As word of our Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre has spread we have been able to liaise with other indigenous ranger groups, including the Hopevale Rangers who brought us a very sick turtle from Cape Flattery for treatment.
Once the turtle has recovered and before we release it we tag the animals and attach tracking devices so that we can track them. If you would like to view the tracking information you can view it at www.seaturtle.org
We have had tremendous support from DERM Land and Sea Management Fund. Russell Bowman from the Lure Shop has been very proactive with fishermen and tourists by ensuring that distressed animals are immediately reported. We are able to mobilise our vessel within 20 minutes of being advised and with very clear instructions we are able to locate the animal quickly.
The Yuku Baja Muliku Ranger group has recently been funded to build a much needed Triage Unit. This will be manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week to care for any sick turtles. A well resourced centre has the potential to service the whole Cape York region.