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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
12 December 2005
The Australian Government will make $41,000 available for important scientific research on the rare green turtle, Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for the Pulu Keeling National Park, said today.
Mr Hunt made the announcement at 10th anniversary celebrations of the proclamation of Pulu Keeling National Park which is internationally renowned for its near-pristine coral atoll ecosystem and its globally significant seabird rookery.
"Around the world the green turtle's survival is under threat.
"Cocos Island has one of the few nesting populations of green turtles left in the world and is a haven for feeding and foraging. This funding will enable park scientists to expand their satellite tagging program and gather the critical information we need to establish international protocols to protect the green turtle," Mr Hunt said.
The green turtle (chelonia mydas) is recognised internationally as a species of conservation concern and in Australia is listed as 'vulnerable' under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Its main threats are marine pollution and changes to habitat, especially to coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests and nesting beaches. Other threats include accidental drowning in fishing gear, over-harvesting of turtles and eggs, and predation of eggs and hatchlings by foxes, feral pigs, dogs and goannas.
"Satellite tracking devices were first attached to four turtles in January 2004," Mr Hunt said.
"The data gave us critical information on the daily movements of turtles in and out of the lagoon. As a result we were able to agree on an environmentally safe route for a ferry hovercraft which might have otherwise damaged the turtle population.
"Further satellite tracking is required to gather more data on daily movements and the currents adults and hatchlings use. More importantly we need to know where turtles go after nesting here if we are to develop international protocols to protect their long migratory routes and feeding grounds," Mr Hunt said.
Park scientists will attach satellite tracking devices to four green turtles in January 2006. In addition they will tag another 150 marine turtles for non-satellite monitoring, bringing the number of turtles the park is studying to 750.
The satellite tagging work is funded by the Natural Heritage Trust as part of the National Recovery Plan for marine turtles.
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's office) 0415 740 722 - 02 6277 2276
Christmas Island (15-19 December) 08 9164 8055 ( Images are available)