A conservation vision for New Guinea's wetlands

Posted on 17 May 2006
Blyth's hornbill is one of many bird species found within the TransFly.
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
Madang, Papua New Guinea – A conservation "vision" to protect one of the Asia-Pacific region's largest, richest and most pristine wetlands on the island of New Guinea has been officially launched today, with governments, community leaders, scientists and conservation organizations declaring their commitment to support it.

“The vision highlights and strengthens the need to conserve this globally significant environment and its biodiversity,” said Terry Warra, Acting Managing Director of the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority

“It will not only assist the communities that live in the TransFly, but also provides a powerful symbol of the cooperation and friendship between our two countries.”

Straddling the border of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, this unique coastal landscape of grasslands, savannas, wetlands and monsoon forest habitats spans 10 million hectares. The TransFly is home to over half of New Guinea’s bird species, including 80 that are endemic to the island, as well as numerous species of birds of paradise. There are also endemic marsupial cats, flying possums and a rich diversity of reptiles.

However, the protected habitats and species that help identify the TransFly as an outstanding area of biodiversity are increasingly under threat from logging, agricultural expansion, and road and settlement development.

“Until now, there has been no attempt to prioritise conservation efforts in the region, properly document its biodiversity values or identify how conservation efforts can proceed hand in hand with development,” said Michele Bowe, WWF Papua New Guinea's TransFly Coordinator. “The vision is a blueprint for conservation and development in the TransFly over the next 50 years.”

The launch of the TransFly Biodiversity Vision represents the culmination of three years of consultation, data collection, mapping and analysis by WWF to identify and prioritise the habitats and species, and document the importance of the region's traditional cultures, local landowner groups and their livelihoods. The lives, customs, beliefs, languages and knowledge of over 60 cultural groups are linked inextricably with the geography of the TransFly.

“Our culture is precious to future generations”, said Yul Bole Gebze, a Community Leader from Papua, Indonesia, adding “Commitment to the Vision will stop the destruction of our land. We have many sacred places that mark the route of our ancestors’ spirits, the preservation of which has now been recognised by this Vision”.

Today’s announcement coincides with the launch of a new WWF publication Beyond Belief – Linking Faiths and protected areas to support biodiversity conservation, which explores the relationship between sacred areas, spiritual beliefs and protected areas, like the TransFly.

For further information
Christian Thompson, Communications Advisor
WWF Papua New Guinea
Tel: +675 852 1763
E-mail: cthompson@wwfpacific.org.pg

Michele Bowe, TransFly Ecoregion Coordinator
WWF Papua New Guinea
Tel: +679 3315 533
E-mail: mbowe@wwfpacific.org.pg