Winner of the Whitley Award donated The Shears Foundation

A vital stronghold

Jamursba Medi and Wermon beaches in the Bird’s Head Seascape of West Papua host the largest remaining nesting aggregation of leatherback turtles in the Pacific. Although leatherbacks are no longer exploited on these beaches, low hatchling success has hindered the recovery of this critically endangered population and poaching still occurs in other areas.

Fitry Pakiding

Protection amidst poverty

Local communities legally own these beaches, and the success of efforts to reverse leatherback decline ultimately lies in gaining their support. However communities here live in extreme poverty, which has undermined their ability to support marine turtle conservation. Elsewhere in the region, a lack of enforcement enables the sale of leatherback meat and eggs to persist.

Leatherback turtle

Part of the community

Fitryanti Pakiding is a researcher and lecturer with the State University of Papua. She leads a community programme aimed at working towards ‘Conservation Villages’, where biodiversity conservation goes hand in hand with improving local peoples’ quality of life.

BHS community celebration

Fitry’s ambitious project aims to:

  • Empower communities to become guardians of leatherbacks and their habitat, whilst increasing local livelihood opportunities.
  • Strengthen enforcement practicesto prevent the poaching of turtles and their eggs.
  • Raise awareness of turtle conservation among young people and ensure government decisions are aligned with conservation goals.

Why it matters:

  • The Pacific population of leatherback turtles is critically endangered.
  • Their evolutionary roots can be traced back over 100 million years.
  • Jamursba Medi and Wermon beaches support 75% of annual leatherback nesting in the region.

“When we provide communities with activities that benefit them, they show enthusiasm towards our project.”

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