ICBE 2018

Jeen Womom Coastal Park, Then and Now

 The place started off as Jamursba Medi Nature Reserve area, and consecutively became a Wildlife Reserve, Initiative Jamursba Medi-North Tambrauw National Park, Abun Regional Marine Conservation Area (KKLD Abun) as established by the Sorong Regent, and it eventually became a Coastal and Small Islands Conservation Area (KKP3K) managed as Jeen Womom Coastal Park, as established by the Decision of the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries No. 53/KEPMEN-KP/2017 on 22 December 2017. This proves just how serious the conservation efforts carried out in the region have been.

Starting from 1981, various surveys and studies on leatherback sea turtle nesting spots were conducted. The purpose of the preliminary observation conducted by Dr. Rodney Salm and Dr. Ronald Petocz was to get an idea of the number of turtles laying eggs and the level of threats, especially the poaching of turtle eggs. In 1985, the studies were continued by Shatis Bhaskar who began initiating the attachment of transmitters to turtles. In addition to providing information on the migration of leatherback sea turtles, the attachment of transmitters also let us know that a leatherback sea turtle could produce up to seven egg nests per season, with a nesting interval of one day and after that about 9-10 days.

Jeen Womom

Meanwhile, the threat of turtle egg poaching arose frequently. Turtle eggs were poached and then bartered for a variety of basic household needs such as rice, sugar, salt, soap, and cooking utensils. These barter transactions were routinely carried out once a week by the local people with people coming in boats from Sorong, Biak, Manokwari and North Maluku. This activity was disclosed in a survey of turtle colonies conducted by William Betz and Marry Welch in around 1991.

In 1993, the WWF Irian Jaya Conservation Project, which at that time was under the coordination of Malcolm Stark, began conducting monitoring and patrolling activities involving the local communities in the area of Jamursba Medi (Jeen Yessa). The patrolling and community development activities proved to be able to suppress the number of eggs poached to be bartered or sold. It was too bad though that the local people around Warmon Beach (Jeen Syuab) had the habit of consuming turtle eggs, and this was a special challenge. Based on a research conducted by Thebu and Hitipeuw in 2003, 42% of the turtle eggs were still consumed by the people. Monitoring program was then carried out at this beach.

In 2003, Peter Dutton conducted a study on the genetics and population stock of turtles at the beaches of Jamursba Medi and Warmon. The results showed that the population of leatherback sea turtles nesting on both of these coastal areas were of the same kind (one population group) as the leatherback sea turtles nesting in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

Leatherback Sea Turtle. Photo Credit : WWF Indonesia/Hadi Ferdinandus

Then, in 2006, WWF-Indonesia in collaboration with NOAA US conducted a research on the post-nesting migration of turtles at Jamursba Medi Beach. Transmitters were attached to the turtles at the coasts of Jamursba Medi and Warmon. The results of the research, conducted on nine leatherback sea turtles after nesting at Jamursba Medi nesting beach, indicated that the turtles had a very wide range of migration, swimming towards different tropical waters in the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, and even across the equatorial Pacific Ocean into the warm waters of North America with extremely high jellyfish aggregations. This shows that the purpose of migration is related to the availability of food sources.

In 2007, an important study on the population of leatherback sea turtles at the coasts of Jamursba Medi and Warmon was conducted by Creusa Hitipeuw, Petter Dutton, S. R. Benson, Julianus Thebu and J. Bakarbessy. The study compared the records of nesting activity from 1981-2001 with those from 2001-2004 via satellite telemetry that tracked the movement of the female turtles internally during the nesting season. The results of the comparison showed that while there was an indication of long-term decline, their population had not been eliminated to the extent found in other major rookeries in the Pacific. Satellite telemetry showed that nesting turtles often frequented the areas around the Raja Ampat Islands and the coastal waters west of Jamursba Medi, and might also nest outside the monitored areas. It was therefore recommended that marine protected areas be developed to ensure the protection of this population in the vital, nearby marine habitats, and the implementation of conservation measures in partnership with the local communities at the nesting beaches before the turtle population became entirely eliminated.

Baby Sea Turtle di Jeen Womom. Photo Credit : WWF Indonesia/Hadi Ferdinandus

10 years later, at the end of 2017, Jamursba Medi (Jeen Yessa) -Warmon (Jeen Syuab) area which had the Wildlife Reserve status and an area of 278.25 ha was established as Coastal and Small Islands Conservation Area (KKP3K) with an area of 32,250.86 ha. This over 100-fold increase in the size of the area not only provides a space for the preservation of turtle habitats, but also became a challenge for WWF -Indonesia and partners to be more active in conservation efforts while giving room to the local communities to actively engage in the management of Jeen Womom Coastal Park.

Author: Hedi Ferdinandus/WWF Indonesia

"Provinces of Conservation: Smart Solution for Sustainable Development in Papua"