The water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a major threat to the biodiversity of wetlands in Southern Papua. A native of South America, water hyacinth grows so abundantly that it literally chokes the life out of tropical wetlands causing problems for wildlife and people alike.
Staff from WWF's Tropical Wetlands of Oceania programme and WWF's Sahul Bioregion recently travelled by car, motorbike and long boat to nine districts distributing awareness raising posters and stickers and discussing the water hyacinth problem with communities.
Before the WWF team began its mission, communities along their itinerary were alerted by radio broadcasts about the initiative and even remote communities came to know where the WWF team would make scheduled stops.
In each district, meetings were held with the district administration, Catholic church and the whole community to discuss the water hyacinth problem and how the biocontrol programme offers a solution to the problem. All districts were keen to take part in the programme which involves the setting up of breeding pools of the Neochetina weevil. Neochetina is a native predator of water hyacinth in South America which eats its way through the weed, gradually reducing the area it covers.
The villagers release the weevil into waterways infested with water hyacinth. A training curriculum for the biocontrol programme has also been developed for local villagers.
''During the the four- week trip it was disappointing to see how quickly water hyacinth has spread since its initial accidental introduction to Merauke in 1990. Virtually all waterways and wetlands visited were affected by the weed and those that are not yet affected soon will be if we don't act quickly." said Michele Bowe, WWF'S Tropical Wetlands Oceania Programme Manager who took part in the trip.
"There are still another 10 districts to visit and it is quite likely the programme will need to cover the whole of greater Merauke - a vast area of over 117,000 square kilometres. We are currently deciding on our best strategy for undertaking the biocontrol work on such a vast scale."
For further information contact
Donna Luckman, Programme and Communications Officer, WWF Tropical Wetlands of Oceania Programme, Tel. +61 (0)8 8941 7554 Fax. +61 (0)8 8941 6494 Email. email@example.com