New protected areas for Papua New Guinea
The proposed protected areas are in Madang, the Sepik River, Mount Bosavi (Southern Highlands and Western Provinces), and the TransFly (Western Province), which together will add a further 771,451ha to Papua New Guinea’s protected area system — an increase of almost 50 per cent.
“This is the most significant expansion of our protected area system this decade,” said Papua New Guinea Environment Minister William Duma.
“We are very proud of the efforts of landholding communities who requested protection of their land and congratulate the non-government organizations and companies who have assisted them.”
As all the protected areas are owned by local communities, management practices will be developed and run by the communities themselves. The protected areas will promote the sustainable use of wildlife and its habitats for subsistence and cash income, as well as strengthening land rights and cultural sites.
“We hope these proposed protected areas will help some of the country’s least developed communities to improve their livelihoods,” added Minister Duma. “They have been established for many reasons, including increasing fish stocks, ensuring sustainable harvest of animals and forest products, clarifying land boundaries, drawing tourists and protecting sacred areas.”
Nominating communities were recognized by WWF with certificates of conservation leadership given by WWF International Director General designate James Leape.
“This is an important step in protecting one of the world’s great environmental treasures,” said Leape.
“Papua New Guinea has the largest block of tropical rainforest in the Asia Pacific, the largest and healthiest wetlands in the region and some of the richest coral reefs on the planet, but these are under intense pressure from unsustainable fishing and logging."
Papua New Guinea currently has one of the lowest coverage of protected area of any country. Only 2.7 per cent of the country’s land area and 0.07 per cent of its territorial waters are included in protected areas.
The government has committed to protecting 10 per cent of the country’s land in protected areas by 2010 and 10 per cent of its marine areas by 2012. The 12 additions will bring the current protect land total to around 4 per cent. The government is also proposing a Protected Area initiative, with support from community organizations, landowners and donors, to ensure that the 10 per cent target is reached.
“A global effort is needed to support the remarkable effort now underway to protect and manage Papua New Guinea’s environment and promote sustainable natural resource industries,” added Leape.
“WWF will be committing its resources to this and we call on governments and donors in the region and around the world to assist.”
• The 12 protected areas include the: Madang Lagoon (estimated to contain 700 species of coral and over 1,000 species of reef fishes — as many as the Great Barrier Reef in a fraction of the area); Mount Bosavi and the Kikori River Basin (part of a unique landscape of extinct volcanoes, limestone gorges, and rainforests); Sepik River Basin (perhaps the largest unpolluted river in the Asia Pacific region and home to one of the world’s largest crocodile populations); and TransFly ecoregion (home to important migratory bird sites and some of the region’s largest and healthiest wetlands).
• The event marking the protected area announcement was organized by the Papua New Guinea Department of Environment and Conservation, with support from WWF Papua New Guinea. The following local organizations were recognized: Ambunti District Council of Women, Aquaventures Pty Ltd (dive operators), Bauabaua Theatre Company, HELP Resources, Kosua Orogo Resource Owners Association, New Guinea Binatang Research Centre, Oil Search Pty Ltd, PNG Forest Authority and Wetlands International.
For more information:
Ashwini Prahba, Communications Coordinator
WWF South Pacific Programme Office
Tel: +679 3315 533
Paul Chatterton, Conservation Manager
WWF Papua New Guinea
Tel: +675 853 3220