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Wildlife exploitation in New Guinea forests

from left to right: agardwood © WWF - Paul Chatterton / Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) © WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY / Hunter, Papua New Guinea © Brent Stirton/WWF-UK/Getty Images

A Lost Story Place: the fate of Tenkile

On a mountain summit called Sweipini, there is a small and circular lake. This place was once the most sacred place in the entire Olo Region of Papua New Guinea. People once believed that the lake is inhabited by giant eels that if woken, would cause terrible weather, destroying gardens and causing starvation. As a result, locals seldom ventured into this area, making it safe for a range of species. This included the tenkile tree kangaroo, and Olo people acknowledged that Sweipini was the last refuge for the species.

In 1990, a local man decided that the ‘devil eels’ should be exorcised by a Catholic priest, a decision that was duly acted upon. Suddenly, the ‘taboo’ for the area was no longer there, and people began hunting in the area around the lake.

One month after the ‘exorcising’, 11 adult tenkile had been captured in the area, including mother with young. By late 1990, tree kangaroos were a thing of the past in Sweipini.

Source: Flannery, T. 1994. The Future Eaters. Reed New Holland.