Problems in the forests of New Guinea | WWF

Problems in the forests of New Guinea

Moss forest, Arfak Mountains Nature Reserve, Indonesia.
© Ian Craven / WWF

Nothing to worry about?

To fly over New Guinea's seemingly endless forests grants the illusion that the worse destruction scenarios for this massive natural expanse are far, far away.
True, a vast majority of not only forests, but also freshwater bodies and wildlife on the island remain intact, perhaps not unlike what the first humans would have found thousands of years ago.

But the picture is misleading. The destructive environmental forces we observe in so many other tropical forests all over the world are already at work here. Deforestation, pollution, overhunting… these issues are increasingly common in several places in New Guinea.

The race for resources extraction

The development of some countries often takes place at the expense of others. In New Guinea, many forests are being looted illegally to cover massive demands from the booming economies of China and other countries.

Traders and loggers use “gloves off” methodologies to access timber at all costs. Illegal logging involving intimidation and corruption is widespread, which can cause resentment, strife, and encourages further bad governance.

In addition, forests are being converted to large-scale commercial plantations, often using unsustainable practices.

Riches above and below the ground

But it’s not just about what is above the ground that is being exploited. Extractive industries also focus on New Guinea’s significant oil, gas, and mineral reserves. The track-record of these industries show they can cause severe environmental damage, particularly in fragile wetlands and watersheds.

Targeted wildlife

Hunting, by traditional methods and more recently with firearms, is a major concern for several species. The illegal wildlife trade, a component of the black market in Papua Province in Indonesia, threatens bird populations such as lories and cockatoos.

Some other species at risk don't have legs to escape. For example, the trees that form the precious agarwood, a fragrant substance found inside them, are at risk of being lost because of intensive trade.
	© WWF
[click to enlarge] Projected deforestation map for New Guinea. Based on data from Papua New Guinea Resource Information System, PNG Forest Information System, PNG Forest Authority, maps of logging and oil palm and transmigration sites overlayed on vegetation cover maps.

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