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Protected Areas establishment in New Guinea

Seasonal swamp-woodland in Wasur National Park, Papua Province, Indonesia.

One of WWF's earliest successes in the former province of Irian Jaya (now Papua Province), Indonesia, was to help establish Wasur National Park.

The park has achieved greater recognition of customary rights than almost any other conservation area in Indonesia. Indigenous people are free to hunt and collect certain animals and plants, while they contribute traditional knowledge and advice to park planning.

Success story in the TransFly

In Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Papua Province, communities are increasingly taking the initiative to establish protected areas themselves, with the help of WWF.

An area where such a commitment has been made at a large scale is in the TransFly, in southcentral New Guinea. There, several villages have pledged a vast area of land for conservation purposes, a commitment they wish to honour with the support of WWF.

This pledge is a major boost for the protected areas network in PNG and Indonesia, as it will form part of a proposed 2 million ha trans-boundary protected area complex (20% of the TransFly ecoregion) protecting important migratory bird sites, endemic species and some of the largest and healthiest wetlands in Asia-Pacific.
Some 80,000ha of rainforest around Papua New Guinea's Mt Bosavi (2400m) in the Kikoria River Basin ... 
© WWF Papua New Guinea
Some 80,000ha of rainforest around Papua New Guinea's Mt Bosavi (2400m) in the Kikoria River Basin have been designated protected areas. Mt Bosavi (seen in the background).
© WWF Papua New Guinea

Protected areas on volcanoes

In late 2006, local communities in PNG gathered along the slopes of Mt Bosavi to celebrate 3 new protected areas. Covering 80,000 ha of the Kikori River Basin, these areas are home to pristine rainforests and rich wildlife such as the world’s longest lizard and giant pigeons and butterflies. WWF has been heavily involved in supporting the local communities of Bosavi to declare parts of their land as Wildlife Management Areas.

A protected area strategy for the TransFly

Our approach involves helping communities in high-priority and highly threatened areas to organize themselves and establish conservation areas.

We strengthen community-based committees to manage these areas through training, to help them build skills and the commitment they need in the long-term.

Critically, WWF also works with communities and the government to investigate solutions protecting these areas from logging.

Walking to secure protected areas

To establish the 3 extended reserves in the TransFly, every clan in every single village of the area needed to agree. So we collected the names of every single landowner – about 6,000 - as this is required by law. It has taken 2 years going round every village to do this.

The villagers also provided us with sketches of their land, usually several sheets of children’s exercise books, glued together with sago gum. These maps show wetlands with their rivers, creeks and lagoons and sago places, all labelled with local place names. Some have small drawings of birds to show where the “paradise” live.

We used these maps to walk every metre of the proposed protected areas with the individual clan owners. The new areas total 700,000 ha so that’s a lot of walking.


Dear Sir,
Hello and our Good Lord Bless you very nicely in Jesus name. So I the Mbangu families representative committee for a new Aramba WMA invitation set up agree with their full dession [decision] of our customary land, rivers, creeks, swams [swamps], bushes and all animals in it for a time protection for the future generations.

Leader of the Mbangu clan
Daraja village, Proposed Aramba Wildlife Management Area
Letter sent to WWF to establish WMAs

The context

In PNG, prospects for protected areas are looking equally good at higher levels. The government has committed to protect 10% of the country’s land by 2010, providing welcome official support for efforts to create protected areas.

But there’s still some way to go – so far, only around 4% of PNG benefits from protected area status.   There is also a major glitch - many allocated logging concessions overlap with protected areas, the equivalent of a death sentence for nature if these concessions are not reviewed.  

Through the PNG Protected Area Network – also known as the “Kamiali Group”  – WWF is zeroing in on threats that undermine protected areas nationally while paving the way for new ones.

The situation in Indonesia

In Indonesian Papua, protected areas (proposed, or designated as protected) represent about 20% of the land – a marked improvement compared to PNG.  For WWF, a major concern, like in PNG, is to ensure that these areas are more than “paper parks” – protected areas with zero management. Hence, our top priority there is to encourage sound management practices across the protected area landscape.

Special status for Jamursba Medi

On the Bird’s Head Peninsula, we are actively pushing for the Jamursba Medi region to become a protected area. In the northern portion of the peninsula, WWF is facilitating the development of a biovision document, which will be used to assist local authorities in sustainable spatial planning, incuding development of protected areas.
Young boy in traditional dug-out canoe, near Bensbach tourist lodge, as sun sets over the Bensbach ... 
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK
Young boy in traditional dug-out canoe, near Bensbach tourist lodge, as sun sets over the Bensbach River, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. December 2004.
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK