Torres Strait Rangers ready to protect generations of knowledge and traditions against severe weather warnings

Torres Strait Islander Aaron Bon is acutely aware of the impact natural disasters could have on his remote community in northern Australia.

That is why he, alongside nine other islanders from remote communities such as Kubin, Masig, Poruma, St Pauls, Ugar and Warrabe, underwent training to better protect their homes and traditions from oil spills, cyclones, floods and forest fires.

“Caring for the land and the sea also means caring for the animals that inhabit our islands when disaster strikes,” Bon said.

The Rangers came from the many islands of the Torres Strait to attend nationally accredited training provided by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science at Gladstone.

Including this last group of rangers, more than 40 TSRA rangers have completed the training since 2017.

TSRA Rangers Aaron Bon, Young Billy, Erimiah Manas and Fred David

“The fires and floods have had devastating effects on native animal populations across Australia,” said Torres Strait Regional Authority Acting Chairman Horace Baira.

“Rangers are on the front line when it comes to safeguarding the diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems of the Torres Strait, including the northernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef, for future generations.

“This training helps fill a gap so that rangers on the ground in our communities can respond quickly to help wildlife in the event of a disaster.

“We are now better placed to respond to risks and disasters to protect our region’s diverse environment and wildlife, including turtles, dugongs and native birds such as the Torres Strait pigeon, egret reefs, the Eurasian Curlew, the Pelican and the Whimbrel.”

The National Indigenous Australians Agency has provided funding to help build the technical skills and capacity of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal rangers across Australia.

Ronald Fujii, senior project manager of the TSRA’s Land and Sea Management Unit, said the training recognized the importance of traditional knowledge in disaster management.

Rangers Young Billy (Warraber) and Loice Naawi (Masig)

“Our rangers will combine traditional knowledge and modern disaster management practices in disaster management in the Torres Strait and could even be deployed to help in Australia when needed,” Mr Fujii said.

The Torres Strait region is rich in wildlife resources, flora and fauna, which covers 48,000 km2 including valuable ecosystems, reefs and 14 inhabited communities between Cape York Point and Papua New Guinea.

“Wildlife in the Torres Strait plays an important role in the lives of our people and the birds are commonly used as indicators of changes in weather, the location of food supplies in the region and can even detect disasters,” Mr. Fuji said.

“TSRA Rangers are trained and ready to work with major agencies to manage disasters and threats to wildlife.”

The news comes ahead of World Ranger Day on July 31, which recognizes the work that rangers do to protect natural treasures and cultural heritage.