Images:(Left) Migrating Green Turtle, Robert Thorn. (Right) Thursday Island community, Steve Szabo. (Bottom) Mangroves along the sea, Steve Szabo.
Warul Kawa Island Indigenous Protected Area
Torres Strait | Declared in April 2000
The small tropical island of Warul Kawa, which lies off Cape York Peninsula in the Torres Strait, was declared an Indigenous Protected Area in April 2000.
Also known as Deliverance Island, the uninhabited sand cay is of spiritual and cultural significance to the Indigenous Western Island communities.
Managed by the Torres Strait Regional Authority, Warul Kawa Indigenous Protected Area covers around 3,500 hectares of vegetated dunes, rainforest, and dense vine thickets. The Indigenous Protected Area and its environs are important hunting and fishing grounds for the Traditional Owners, particularly the Boigu Island community.
The island and surrounding reef support two internationally significant populations of sea turtles. It contains one of the largest rookeries for the flatback turtle, which is only found in Australian waters. The extensive shallow water habitats in the area support large numbers of migrating green turtles.
Despite forming part of Australia's Protected Zone, the Island and surrounding seas are visited by illegal fishermen, and also serve as a temporary refuge for passing sailors caught in stormy weather. Indigenous Protected Area activities are reducing the impact of visitors on the island's environment through the construction of a small campsite and permanent water supply to limit the effects of unplanned camping and foraging on the wider landscape.
Warul Kawa supports a variety of bird habitats and plants species not usually found on Torres Strait islands, including nesting mounds of the orange-footed scrub fowl, and the rainforest plants Manilkara kauki, Diospyrus maritima, and Aglaia eleagnoidea. Indigenous Protected Area activities maintain the health of the Island's ecosystems by removing shipping debris and other wastes washed up on the beaches, and by implementing sustainable hunting practices.
Warul Kawa Indigenous Protected Area is managed in line with the following International Union for Conservation of Nature category:
- Category VI - Managed Resource Protected Area: Protected Area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.