Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nature celebrations in Teptep today

The forests of Yus are critical habitats for Huon (or Matschie’s) tree kangaroos, an endangered species that is one of Earth’s unique creatures

Celebrations will take place today in Teptep village, Morobe province, to mark the creation of Papua New Guinea’s first conservation area, to protect an important area of pristine tropical forest.
Guests of honour include Acting Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu, Minister for Environment Benny Allen, Minister for Defence Bob Dadae, Governor for Morobe Province Luther Wenge, community leaders and partner representatives.
A traditional singsing, or celebratory gathering, honours the recent landmark decision by the PNG government to approve the Conservation Area – rewarding more than a decade of work by local communities in collaboration with conservation biologists from the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) based at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, USA and Conservation International (CI), as well as PNG Department of Environment and Conservation, Morobe provincial government and the Kabwum district.
Named for its three main rivers – the Yopno, Uruwa and Som of the Kabwum district, Morobe province – the YUS Conservation Area covers 187,800 acres (76,000 hectares or 760 square kilometers) of tropical forest stretching from coral reefs off the northern coast to the 4,000-metre peaks of the western Saruwaged Mountains.
A hallmark of modern conservation, the new protected area offers multiple benefits for both wildlife and people.
The lush forest ecosystem teems with life and provides countless resources that sustain the 10,000 villagers living in the surrounding YUS region.
In particular, the forest is critical habitat for Huon (or Matschie’s) tree kangaroos (pictured above), an endangered species that is one of Earth’s unique creatures with a bear-like head, strong arms for climbing and marsupial pouch.
“By creating the country’s first national conservation area, the PNG government and people have taken a step forward for both Papua New Guinea and conservation worldwide,” says Environment Minister Benny Allen.
“I congratulate the YUS community and its partners on their efforts and hope others will follow their example.”
Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme (TKCP) has worked with YUS landowners and the PNG government for more than 12 years to establish the YUS Conservation Area, which is the first to be declared under the PNG Conservation Areas Act of 1978.
TKCP is supported by CI, National Geographic, and BMU (German Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety) through KfW (German Development Bank) as part of the International Climate Change Initiative.
The new protected area also represents the first time that more than 35 indigenous villages of the YUS region have come together in joint action to protect their forest homeland and the wildlife and ecosystems so vital to their culture and sustenance.
“What we have accomplished here is more than just an act of environmental preservation – it’s a model for sustainable community-based conservation that works,” says Dr Lisa Dabek, field conservation director at Woodland Park Zoo and Director of the zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme.
“The protected area will contribute to long-term efforts to preserve critical forest habitat and wildlife, and at the same time looking after the welfare of the local communities. We call it the ‘healthy village, healthy forest’ approach”.
While the land remains under local ownership, villagers have formally committed to prohibit all hunting and development such as logging and mining within the land that has been pledged to the conservation area.
Previous declarations of Wildlife Management Areas in PNG have been less restrictive, allowing logging, mining and other development activities.
Woodland Park Zoo and CI understand that conservation should address the needs of the local people as well as protecting habitat and species, so are working with community leaders to increase access to education, college scholarships, teacher training, health clinic improvements, midwife training, and other investments to support sustainable and healthy village life.
“The conservation area will help the people of YUS better manage their natural resources,” said Karau Kuna, Jr, a PNG national and GIS mapping coordinator for TKCP. “The YUS Conservation Area is part of PNG’s contribution to the worldwide community in the fight against global warming and other environmental issues we are all facing.”
Partners in the years of effort that culminated in creation of the YUS Conservation Area include the YUS communities, TKCP and its international staff, CI, the Morobe provincial government, PNG National Executive Council and PNG Department of Environment and Conservation.
TKCP and CI will continue to work with the PNG government and local communities to seek creation of additional conservation areas in the country, using the YUS Conservation Area as a model.

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