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© WWF / Paul Chatterton

Protected Areas in New Guinea

Pukapuki village in the Hunstein Range, Papua New Guinea.
Over the course of more than 20 years, WWF has helped to set up several of these in New Guinea’s most biodiverse areas. The plan is to sustain this momentum and ensure a representative network of protected areas that are well managed.

But wait – what good are protected areas if governments and communities cannot afford to manage them? And can protected areas really work when so many people depend on forests for their basic subsistence?

Why protected areas?

For thousands of years, the people of New Guinea have lived in relative harmony with their resource base. Today, while this balance mostly persists, several places are beginning to face severe pressure – logging, conversion and wildlife exploitation.

Often, it is outsiders who are causing these pressures, with communities powerless to prevent them. While logging companies are generating massive profits, the compensation they give to local landowners for their trees are a pittance. Sometimes there is none. Clearly, there is a need to strengthen the rights of people to defend their land and its natural resources.

From national parks…

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the first protected areas to be created in the 1970s were national parks.

But this admirable effort was undermined by a serious oversight: local communities were not included in the demarcation process, even though they were affected by the changes in land-use. This led to community resentment of the parks. Community resentment coupled with management neglect then resulted in  degradation of the park areas

… to Wildlife Management Areas and Conservation Areas

In PNG, variants of national parks have emerged, which have taken root much more successfully: Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Conservation Areas (CAs). These are 2 types of protected areas that allow communities to develop regulations and management structures for protection and sustainable use of their own lands, with support from outside agencies.

A key aspect of WMAs is that they are largely maintained and protected by the people who rely on them the most – the locals. Significantly, their establishment follows a bottom-up process, although the government must sanction their creation.

A closer look at WWF’s work for …
Wildlife Management Areas are…
  • Areas of land or water declared as protected areas under the Fauna Act in Papua New Guinea
  • Designed to protect wildlife and their habitats
  • The simplest forms of protected area and ones that give full power to landowners to manage their lands
  • Owned by customary landowners
  • Managed by customary landowners through a committee they have elected. These landowners continue to live inside the protected area.