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Resye and Womom Villages


Conservation benefit: Protection of 2,000 marine turtle nests per year

Community benefit: Computer skills development and environmental education for youth

Date Approved: 06.2021


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

To find the greatest marine biodiversity on the planet, head to the Bird’s Head region of Papua Island, home of unique corals, fish, and endangered sea turtles. Beaches there provide critical nesting habitat for green, olive ridley, and hawksbill turtles, as well as the magnificent leatherbacks.

This project is protecting about 2,000 marine turtle nests each year on Jamursba-Medi Beach, which is considered the most important nesting beach in the world for the critically endangered West Pacific leatherback. About 1,000 leatherbacks nest on this 11-mile-long beach each year, in two distinct nesting populations. Once in the ocean, hatchlings from each group head in different directions.

On paper, the beach is protected as part of the Jeen Womom Coastal Park. But the villages control access to the beach and determine which activities are allowed there. Fortunately, more and more community members have stopped harvesting or eating turtle eggs or meat, common practices until very recently. This change is largely due to the work of the Abun Leatherback Project. Since 2012, ALP community workers have brought environmental education and livelihood training to these villages. They have established close ties, living in the village and pitching in to teach in its chronically understaffed elementary school. Early on, students often talked about eating turtle eggs. But they no longer eat the eggs and are vocal advocates for protecting turtles.

The ALP team and community members have in the past protected about 25 percent of turtle nests on the beach. Building on its work, ALP will ask everyone in both villages to commit to not taking turtles or eggs. With the whole community on board, they can protect all the nests. They will patrol the beach daily, protect nests from pigs, dogs, and monitor lizards, and shade nests if the sand gets too hot. If a nest is too close to water, they will carefully move it.

The villagers say their most urgent need is education. Electricity and broadband recently came to the region, and a Seacology grant will fund computers, a projector, computer courses, and classroom and hands-on environmental education for 60 students for two years—giving them a chance at higher education.

Project Updates

February 2024

Turtle nests are still being protected, and kids are still getting computer training and environmental education. Monthly assessments track their improvement. During school holidays in December, participation dropped because many children were with their parents hunting in the forest, visiting other towns, or working in gardens.

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June 2023

Community members and volunteers from the Abun Leatherback Project continue to protect turtle nests on Jamursba Medi beach. Students are still getting basic computer training (despite sporadic electricity outages) and environmental education that focuses on marine turtles. The number of students in the elementary school has fallen, however. The reason illustrates the effects poverty has on both environment and education: the children have gone with their parents to the gold mines in Kwoor.

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February 2023

Community members and volunteers from the Abun Leatherback Project counted 3,133 turtle nests on Jamursba Medi beach from January to September 2022. Volunteers protected the nests, and just 10 nests were taken in that time. An estimated 89,648 leatherbacks hatched at Jamursba Medi in 2022, a big increase over the 50,295 in 2021.

Beach owners use customary law (sasi) to prohibit taking the turtles. They also now allow pig hunting during the primary nesting season. It’s been found that hunting introduced pigs, which are the primary predators of turtle eggs, significantly reduces nest destruction.

The computer education is already showing results; students who have had the training are more comfortable than others when taking an online course to prepare for standardized exams. Games and outdoor activities, such as making enclosures to keep turtle nests safe, reinforce the environmental education the kids get. Movie Nights feature films with environmental themes, translated into Malay-Papuan.

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June 2022

Students are learning basic computer operations and how to use common word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software. They have made good progress despite the limited number of computers and sporadic electricity outages. Students have received environmental education concentrating on marine turtles: their life cycles, threats to their populations, and recovery methods.

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February 2022

Students are already learning computer skills, and new laptops will be bought in February. Our Indonesia field rep, Irman Meilandi, met with project leaders in November to discuss project implementation and reporting.

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