By Lyndal Scobell

Predatory raids on turtle egg nests continue to threaten the survival of two endangered turtle species that nest on the shores of western Cape York Peninsula.

Feral pigs are the most common culprits.  Nearly 100% of Olive Ridley and Flatback turtle nests have suffered predation in recent years. Cape York Sustainable Futures (CYSF) hosted the Cape York Sea Turtle Project for the past six years, working  with Western Cape communities and ranger groups to reduce the impact of predators on the turtles eggs, increasing the chances of species survival.

Ben Jones, CYSF turtle project officer, has been involved with the project since it began in 2006. He said the main aim of the program is to get turtle hatchlings from their nests to the water.

“We’ve worked with six key ranger groups over the past six years.” Mr Jones said.

The project has involved turtle nest monitoring and identifying nesting hot spots, and looking at the key threats faced by turtles on the Western Cape.

It’s now well documented that predation is by far the biggest threat to the both Olive Ridley and Flatback turtles, and feral pigs are the biggest problem," he said.

Feral pig control is an important component of the Cape York Sea Turtle Project and is supported and managed by ranger groups and the Cape York Weeds and Feral Animal Program.

The recent reduction of pig numbers has led to improved survival rates for hatchlings.

The project provided  up-skilling, training and mentoring in monitoring, species identification and GPS use for local rangers.

“We started working with the Apudthama Rangers in 2007 when there were only two Rangers employed,” Mr Jones said.

“The group has rapidly grown to a full scale ranger program, and this year the group has managed its own pig control and turtle monitoring program.

This means we are able to work more closely with Aak Puul Ngantum Cape York and Aurukun Aboriginal Shire Council groups, that required more assistance with ranger activities, to continue this important work,” he said.

“I love being involved in conservation work on Cape York, especially seeing projects grow from a seed to a healthy tree.

Working with the Indigenous people of the land, in conservation and land management, is priceless and key to the long term success of natural resource management in Cape York," he said.

It’s the two rivers joining - a meeting place, where traditional knowledge and western science flow into each other."

For more information call Ben Jones, Cape York Sustainable Futures on (07) 4053 2856 or go to www.cypda.com.au/programs