Upper Sepik, Papua New Guinea

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Sepik, Papua New Guinea.
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK

High in Papua New Guinea’s pristine natural soul

As part of the largest uncontaminated freshwater system in the Asia-Pacific region, the Sepik is considered the soul of the country. With no large cities or development projects to spoil the river’s waters and wildlife, the area remains very close to its condition thousands of years go.

Wildlife

The Upper Sepik is home to some of Papua New Guinea's rarest plants and more than half of the region's species are endemic - they are not found anywhere else on Earth.

Seventy-six mammal species are known to live in the region, including thirteen species that are endemic or near endemic. The lesser tube-nosed bat (Nyctimene draconilla) and greater sheath-tailed bat (Emballonura furax) are considered vulnerable. The western part of the ecoregion is the only known site in PNG for the western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus albertisi).

So much more of the Sepik's biodiversity remains to be discovered. As a result, the region's actual biodiversity if probably far greater than what we know today.

The problems

Mining, logging, invasive species and unsustainable fishing and agriculture practices could irreversibly add this pristine area to the list of ‘lost paradises’.

What WWF does

One of WWF's priorities is to work with local communities to help them avoid selling off resources for short-term benefit.

We are also assisting the government and local stakeholders to design a river management plan for the Sepik river. This will protect biodiversity and ecological processes while promoting the sustainable management of natural resources - with the backing of a strong policy for this critical catchment area. Moreover, we are helping locals manage the collection and trade in gaharu (eaglewood), a precious material extracted from trees, so that is remains sustainable.
 / ©: Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK
Job, a Pukapuki village local in traditional costume, East Sepik province, Papua New Guinea. December 2004
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK
 / ©: Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK
Birds, Sepik, Papua New Guinea
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK

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