Local communities celebrate new protected areas in Papua New Guinea



Posted on 28 September 2007  | 

Bensbach, Papua New Guinea – The creation of three new wildlife management areas in Papua New Guinea will protect some of Asia-Pacific’s most expansive and unique wildlife habitats.

The new Aramba, Tonda extension and Weriaver areas cover about 710,000 hectares in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province, and join up with the existing Tonda wildlife management area of 610,000 hectares. These areas, together with the adjoining Wasur National Park in Papua, mean that almost 2 million hectares of the TransFly Ecoregion will be protected.

“The creation of these new protected areas means that the TransFly region will now contain the largest continuous protected area in the country,” said Dr David Melick, WWF’s TransFly Ecoregion Coordinator.

The TransFly is a vast, low-lying coastal region of grasslands, savannas wetlands and monsoon forest in south-central New Guinea. Home to such unique wildlife as marsupial cats, endemic flying possums and birds of paradise, the region covers more than 10 million hectares, straddling the borders of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

“We hope that this region will soon be formally recognized as a cross-border conservation zone to enable international action on conservation and livelihood threats,” Dr Melick added.

Hundreds of local tribal groups from surrounding villages celebrated the announcement of the protected areas in a traditional ceremony. Local community leaders, politicians and wildlife officials took part in the ceremony, as well as world-renowned conservationist and author Professor Jared Diamond, and WWF representatives, including WWF International’s Executive Director of Conservation, Guillermo Castilleja.

"In this remote corner of the world, we are engaging with communities in villages and officials in planning offices to design a long-lasting conservation blueprint for the Transfly," Castilleja said, "a vision that will support the area's unique landscapes, wildlife and traditional ways of life."

There are over 60 cultural groups, whose lives, customs, languages and knowledge are linked inextricably with the landscapes of the TransFly. It is also home to some of the largest wetlands in the Asia-Pacific region, but it is threatened by development, agricultural expansion and the spread of exotic species. Millions of birds inhabit the floodplains, with over 50 per cent of New Guinea’s bird species found in the ecoregion, including 80 endemic species.

The wildlife management areas will be managed by local landowner committees, with assistance from WWF to promote protection of wildlife and habitat, and sustainable enterprises such as eco-tourism.

For further information:
Lydia Kaia, Communications Officer
WWF Papua New Guinea
Tel: +675 320 0149
E-mail: lkaia@wwfpacific.org.pg
Local tribesman in the TransFly. The head piece is made from the feathers of the cassowary bird. Rhoku, Papua New Guinea.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK Enlarge
The TransFly region is home to some of the largest wetlands in the Asia-Pacific region.
© Paul Chatterton / WWF-PNG Enlarge
WWF International’s Executive Director of Conservation, Guillermo Castilleja, joins local tribal groups to celebrate the creation of three new wildlife management areas in the TransFly, Papua New Guinea.
© Jamie Williams Enlarge
Matschie's tree kangaroo, one of Papua New Guinea's many unique species of wildlife.
© WWF-Canon / Chris Martin Bahr Enlarge
Yul Bole Gebze, an elder from the village of Wambi in the Indonesian province of Papua, looks over a map of the TransFly conservation vision.
© Ade Sangadji / WWF-Indonesia Enlarge

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