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Jakarta Post

Fitryanti Pakiding: Saving turtles helping people

  • Netty Dharma Somba

    The Jakarta Post

MANOKWARI, Papua   /   Fri, June 6, 2014   /  12:07 pm
Fitryanti Pakiding: Saving turtles helping people Fitriyanti Pakiding: (Courtesy Whitley Fund for Nature)" border="0" height="416" width="599">Fitriyanti Pakiding: (Courtesy Whitley Fund for Nature)

Fitry is one of nine winners of the prestigious 2014 annual Whitley Awards, the so-called Green Oscars, which recognize conservation leaders across the globe.

The 41-year-old lecturer and researcher won for leading work protecting the largest remaining aggregation of leatherback turtles in the Pacific, on Jamursba Medi and Wermon beaches, and for empowering a community.

The Shears Foundation through the Whitley Fund for Nature awarded a total of £35,000 (US$58,565) in installments for the conservation and community empowerment work that Fitry and her team at the State University of Papua (Unipa) have done and will do.

“I am very thankful for the fund because it will enable us to expand the advocacy program in more villages for at least 10 months,” Fitry told The Jakarta Post recently. She has been teaching in the university’s agriculture and agricultural technology department since 1998.

Fitry said that her team has been working on the program since 2005. Although leatherbacks are no longer exploited on the beaches, a low rate of successful hatchings has hindered the recovery of the critically endangered population and poaching still occurs in other areas.

The beaches and areas around the beaches are under the indigenous communal land tenure rights of the people in three villages – Saubeba, Warmandi and Wau in Manokwari, West Papua.

The communities live in poverty, rendering them unable to support marine conservation program.

“We realize that the success of efforts to stop the leatherback’s decline lies in empowering the people. In 2010, we started an advocacy program to elevate their capacity and welfare,” Fitry, who earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University in the US, said.

A lack of money meant that the team could only run the advocacy program in Saubeba.

Free: Hatchling leatherback turtles released at sea in West Papua. (Courtesy Whitley Fund for Nature)

Fitriyanti Pakiding: (Courtesy Whitley Fund for Nature)

Fitry is one of nine winners of the prestigious 2014 annual Whitley Awards, the so-called Green Oscars, which recognize conservation leaders across the globe.

The 41-year-old lecturer and researcher won for leading work protecting the largest remaining aggregation of leatherback turtles in the Pacific, on Jamursba Medi and Wermon beaches, and for empowering a community.

The Shears Foundation through the Whitley Fund for Nature awarded a total of £35,000 (US$58,565) in installments for the conservation and community empowerment work that Fitry and her team at the State University of Papua (Unipa) have done and will do.

'€œI am very thankful for the fund because it will enable us to expand the advocacy program in more villages for at least 10 months,'€ Fitry told The Jakarta Post recently. She has been teaching in the university'€™s agriculture and agricultural technology department since 1998.

Fitry said that her team has been working on the program since 2005. Although leatherbacks are no longer exploited on the beaches, a low rate of successful hatchings has hindered the recovery of the critically endangered population and poaching still occurs in other areas.

The beaches and areas around the beaches are under the indigenous communal land tenure rights of the people in three villages '€“ Saubeba, Warmandi and Wau in Manokwari, West Papua.

The communities live in poverty, rendering them unable to support marine conservation program.

'€œWe realize that the success of efforts to stop the leatherback'€™s decline lies in empowering the people. In 2010, we started an advocacy program to elevate their capacity and welfare,'€ Fitry, who earned a master'€™s degree in agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University in the US, said.

A lack of money meant that the team could only run the advocacy program in Saubeba.

Free: Hatchling leatherback turtles released at sea in West Papua. (Courtesy Whitley Fund for Nature)Free: Hatchling leatherback turtles released at sea in West Papua. (Courtesy Whitley Fund for Nature)
Unipa sent a crew of eight to monitor and guard nests and hatchlings on the beach led by conservationist Richardo F. Tapilatu.

Fitry herself led three supervisors, two field assistants and two project managers in the village, supported by about 15 students from the university in a yearly program.

'€œEach year, we would evaluate our work and look for more funding to sustain it,'€ she said.

Fitry'€™s team helped local residents improve their agricultural and game-meat processing skills; as well as introduced post-harvest technology to produce cooking oil, among other things.

With help from the students, the team also ran literacy and basic arithmetic classes, as well as campaigns on turtle conservation for children.

'€œWe held '€˜turtle camps'€™ on the beach to nurture their love and awareness of the endangered species,'€ Fitry said.

Thanks to the award, the team will be able to triple its efforts by running similar programs at the other two villages, she added.

Fitryanti, who was born in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, said that she fell in love with nature and wildlife during her youth, which was spent in Jayapura, Papua. '€œAs a child, I loved playing in the woods and rivers near my house. As an adult, I became more aware of the vast richness of Indonesian flora and fauna when translating a book series on Indonesian ecology.'€

She became interested in leatherback conservation after learning of the declining population in the species'€™ last stronghold. '€œIt happens in our back yard, in West Papua. I felt that I could help the program with my knowledge by empowering the people around the nesting area. Although they live near the beach, most of them are farmers'€.

Fitryanti said she hoped that she could continue the program and that the people of Saubeba, Warmandi and Wau would be able to live in prosperity and become the guardians of the turtles.

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