Papua New Guinea’s first ornithologist (bird scientist) Paul Igag –internationally renowned for his work in the Crater Mountain area of Eastern Highlands province - died suddenly last Friday night in Goroka.
|Paul Igag…a lifetime passion for birds|
Details of his death were not immediately available today, however, the scientific community in both PNG and overseas is mourning the death of Igag, PNG’s first national expert on birds from PNG, who held a PhD
From Madang province, he was one of the first scientific staff at the young Research and Conservation Foundation of PNG, became one of the first scientific staff at the Wildlife Conservation Society PNG Programme, and then became a founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research.
Igag was a leader in PNG's movement toward greater scientific autonomy.
Dozens of students and his co-workers affectionately called him "Uncle Paul”.
Close friends and scientific colleagues have created an online memorial in memory of Igag, which they hope will create a good profile of his life and a last record and tribute of all of his accomplishments.
“Paul (Igag) was PNG's first home-grown ornithologist,” said longtime colleague Dr Andrew Mack.
“He bridged the world of village PNG and Western academia.
“In the field Paul worked well with local assistants and he always trained up a good team of young men and women to help with his various field projects.
“Back in town, Paul collaborated with top ornithologists worldwide.
“Paul's research covered many topics, but his real passion was large parrots.
“He made important discoveries about palm cockatoos and vulturine parrots that have and will continue to help guide conservation of these threatened species.
“We all grieve, but we should also celebrate how lucky we were to have been in the presence of such a wonderful man.”
Igag had worked on the conservation biology of various species at Crater Mountain since 1999 with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York).
With generous support from the Pacific Biological Foundation, he came to the Australian National University in 2001 to study for a Masters degree under the supervision of Rob Heinsohn and Sarah Legge.
The aim of Igag’s research was to outline the breeding biology and likely causes of threat to three species of large parrot found in the New Guinea rainforest.
Palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus) and Pesquet’s parrots (Psittrichus fulgidus) are threatened by over-exploitation for food and the thriving trade in their feathers, and along with Eclectus parrots (Eclectus roratus) are threatened by loss of habitat.
In January this year, the work of Igag and PNGOBR colleague Miriam Supuma, was featured on a high-acclaimed BBC documentary by international environmental icon David Attenborough on the increasingly-rare birds of paradise.
The documentary followed Igag and Supuma as they went about researching how killing birds of paradise for feathers for ceremonial headdress was endangering rare species.