Local communities celebrate new protected areas in Papua New Guinea
Bensbach, Papua New Guinea – The creation of three new wildlife management areas in Papua New Guinea will protect some of Asia-Pacific’s most threatened and unique wildlife habitats.
The new Aramba, Tonda extension and Weriaver areas cover about 710,000 hectares in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province, and join up with the existing Tonda wildlife management area of 610,000 hectares. These areas, together with the adjoining Wasur National Park in Papua, mean that almost 2 million hectares of the TransFly Ecoregion will be protected.
“The creation of these new protected areas means that the TransFly region will now contain the largest continuous protected area in the country,” said Dr David Melick, WWF’s TransFly Ecoregion Coordinator.
The TransFly is a vast, low-lying coastal region of grasslands, savannas wetlands and monsoon forest in south-central New Guinea. Home to such unique wildlife as marsupial cats, endemic flying possums and birds of paradise, the region covers more than 10 million hectares, straddling the borders of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
“We hope that this region will soon be formally recognized as a cross-border conservation zone to enable international action on conservation and livelihood threats,” Dr Melick added.
Hundreds of local tribal groups from surrounding villages celebrated the announcement of the protected areas in a traditional ceremony. Local community leaders, politicians and wildlife officials took part in the ceremony, as well as world-renowned conservationist and author Professor Jared Diamond, and WWF representatives, including WWF International’s Executive Director of Conservation, Guillermo Castilleja.
“We are working with local landowners so indigenous values can shape a biodiversity vision to protect priority landscapes on both sides of the political border,” said Dr Melick.
“This approach identifies and prioritizes the landscapes, species and traditions that have particular cultural, social or livelihood values.”
There are over 60 cultural groups, whose lives, customs, languages and knowledge are linked inextricably with the landscapes of the TransFly. It is also home to some of the largest wetlands in the Asia-Pacific region, but it is threatened by development and agricultural expansion. Millions of birds inhabit the floodplains, with over 50 per cent of New Guinea’s bird species found in the ecoregion, including 80 endemic species.
The wildlife management areas will be managed by local landowner committees, with assistance from WWF to promote protection of wildlife and habitat, and sustainable enterprises such as eco-tourism.
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