516 pig-nosed turtles released back to their natural habitat

The Jakarta Post
October 14, 2006

By Markus Makur, Timika

The Papua Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) has returned 516 pig-nosed turtles (Carettochelys Insulpta) to their natural habitat in the Mawati River in Papua after the Cikananga and Yogyakarta animal protection centers took care of them for four years.
The animals were released on the border between the Lorenz National Park and giant copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia?s contract work area.  Their return was aimed at helping to replenish the protected turtles' stocks and educate people about the importance of animal conservation. Residents of Fanamo and Omawita villages turned out, delighted to see the native animals come back to their natural habitat.
Poaching has drastically reduced the population of the turtles in the Mawati River. The turtles live in murky salt water in river delta areas, such as in mangrove forests, and in shallow, clear fresh water in the upper reaches of the river, such as in low lying forests. The marine animal, which can grow up to 50 cm long, is protected under a 1990 law on conservation and a 1999 government regulation on forest and animal protection. Pig-nosed turtles can be found only in Papua and Australia. Thousands of them have been captured in smuggling attempts around the country.
Around 1,000 turtles were seized by BKSDA's Jakarta office at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport in 2003, before they could be sent overseas. The confiscated turtles were eventually taken care of by the Animal Protection Center in Sukabumi, West Java. In March 2003, the East Java BKSDA confiscated as many as 7,000 pig-nosed turtles in Surabaya's Tanjung Perak Port. They were later sent to the Yogyakarta Animal Protection Center in January 2005. The two animal protection centers train and rehabilitate the animals before releasing them back into their natural habitat.
From the centers, the animals were sent to Papua through the translocation program, which involves medical tests, scrutiny by the Forestry Ministry and Quarantine Office, and document arrangements. The translocation process was conducted at the Halim Perdana Kusuma Airport in Jakarta on Aug. 29, involving 2,632 pig-nosed turtles from Yogyakarta and 230 turtles from Sukabumi.
A temporary station has been set up in Porsite, Timika, to help the animals recover from their 20-hour journey from Jakarta. It will also assist them in adjusting to their new diet and living conditions.

The head of the Papua BKSDA's Timika Conservation Zone, Prianto S., said his office would continually monitor the progress of the pig-nosed turtles in the Mawati River. The office is also working to protect the turtles from smugglers. "We will regularly coordinate with related agencies and the police to combat poaching of Papua's endemic animal species," Prianto said.
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