Enormous leatherback turtle caught up in a battle between conservationists and poachers, rescued and released back into the sea

When a mammoth leatherback turtle became stuck in dense undergrowth on Bougainville, it also became caught up in a battle between conservationists and poachers.

A local school teacher, Anne Lydia Dandava, helped raise the alarm and a group from her village along the Lavelai Coast set off to rescue the turtle and push it out to sea.

“We beat the poachers. I think there were not too many of them. So they had gone back for reinforcements. And in the interim we rescue … we set the turtle free,” she said.

It’s a rare success story in Papua New Guinea, where turtles and their eggs are considered a delicacy and often hunted as food.

For the critically endangered leatherback, the stakes have never been higher.

A study published by researchers at San Jose State University in California last year made for grim reading with predictions that Pacific leatherback populations are expected to dwindle to the point of extinction by 2040.

PNG conservationists like Wenceslaus Magun hope the Bougainville rescue could turn the tide against local poachers and help save the endangered turtles.

“We need to document all the stories and then bring those stories back to them…and educate them,” he said.

“If the turtles are gone, the concepts will be gone, the dignities and identities will be gone, their food source will be gone as well,” said Magun.

This story was produced by Mackenzie Smith, published at ABC on 13 December 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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