Julie Tamaariki, president of the newly-formed society, said: “One of the aims of Te Ara O Te Onu society will be to work with the operators, environment and tourism to ensure safe viewing practices and protection of the marine environment and offer current and knowledgeable education on marine turtle facts.”
She added: “We are about the admiration for these amazing species - caring for and protecting them with passion, culture and mana. We believe we are in a great position here in the Cook Islands to make an impact on the future of these amazing species.”
Julie and her husband Kave run tourist attractions Ariki Adventures and Ariki Holidays.
She said that viewing turtles in their natural habitats has become a huge tourism attraction here in Rarotonga over the last 18 months and since monitoring this in early 2018 with their Ariki Adventures turtle tours, they have decided to learn more about the amazing marine mammals and why they are in our waters.
She said they are seeing some Green turtles in the Avarua passages around Trader Jacks and the Avatiu Harbour.
“As we see it, if tourists who view our turtles can also take home a message, not only on the turtles, but our amazing marine life and the sustainability of our environment, then we are doing our part for the future of our planet.”
“The Hawksbill turtles are the most at risk of the sea turtle species and therefore are critically endangered.”
She said both the Green and Hawksbill turtles here in the Cook Islands are endangered and it is estimated that the populations are a fraction of its historic levels.
“We have consulted with Dr Michael White in Penrhyn, Cook Islands Tourism, and took a trip to the inaugural turtle conservation and culture workshop in Fiji in July 2018. We made some great contacts within the wider Pacific region.”
She said they are wanting to work towards increasing funding for Dr White, patron of the newly formed society, Te Ara O Te Onu, who is planting trees with the community for cooler turtle nesting places in the northern group.
The executive committee includes vice president Steph Jensen, secretary Carly Lawton, treasurer Brent Fisher and committee members Gerald McCormack, Kura Happ, Debbie Topp, Neil Davison, Zoe Twigg, Ngamatua Mamanu, Hayley Weeks, Tom Weeks, Lee Horton, Kave Tamaariki and Marlon Thomas.