Protected Areas management in New Guinea

Rules of engagement for protected areas

 / ©: WWF
Tonda Wildlide Management Area, TransFly ecoregion, Papua New Guinea.
© WWF
Without management, some protected areas might as well not exist. Such is the case of many of these in the New Guinea, where protected areas have been established – and then forgotten.
For over 2 decades, WWF has been working with authorities and local inhabitants to ensure protected areas receive the attention they need to really fulfil their ultimate aims – protect biodiversity.

A part of New Guinea where we are very excited to work is the TransFly. In this low-lying coastal region that covers 10 million ha, a complex of grasslands, savannas, wetlands and monsoon forest straddles the Indonesian-Papua New Guinea boundary. And there we have the Tonda Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

Bringing back the Tonda management committee in the TransFly

Locally-managed protected areas such as Tonda can work wonders - provided they have a reasonable amount of funding and sound protocols.

These challenges can be worsened by other factors, for example when financial and technical assistance vanish and unscrupulous agents mismanage royalties from fishing and hunting.

Committee support

In 1998, WWF began work in Tonda to support the Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Committee. Our work has focussed on revitalizing the WMA committee and re-affirming its vital role as the key institution responsible for management of Tonda. Some of our actions included:
  • Reviewing the committee structure to improve landowner representation.
  • Developing better financial management processes of royalties.
  • Assisting the Committee to understand WMA and other resource management legislation.

At the same time, we have been sharing our concerns with the committee about “new” threats to the WMA, including weeds and feral animals.

Do they work?

How do we know if a protected area really works? WWF and partners have developed tools to put  protected areas on the test - meet RAPPAM.

Natural resources management scales up in the TransFly

WWF’s presence in Tonda has resulted in an unexpected domino effect: Other villages to the north of the area have requested WWF assistance to carry out similar work on their lands.

Following consultation with other clan groups and landowners, an extension to Tonda WMA is being proposed and two new WMAs to the north of Tonda in the Aramba lands are also in the pipeline.

Managing the Arfak Nature Reserve in Bird’s Head Peninsula

Similar empowerment is taking place in New Guinea’s western-most region, the Arfak Nature Reserve. There, WWF and the Indonesian Directorate-General of Forest Protection (PHPA) guided the process for village committees to take over management and protection of the reserve.


This is people power at its best: The local Hatam people decide on the boundaries by themselves and control access to the reserve. They also establish and enforce rules, allowing certain activities (e.g. rearing butterflies for commercial sale) and forbidding others in the reserve.

In Lorentz National Park

A similar kind of approach has been used by WWF-Indonesia to help implement the Lorentz Management Plan, which is based on collaborative management principles. Our staff are helping local actors such as communities, government, and local NGOs to participate effectively in park management, and are assisting with the revision of district spatial plans.

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