Villagers Pledge Land to Save Forest
15 Jun 2009
Working with the Papua New Guinea Government and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and Conservation International, residents have recently created the first national conservation area.
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The southeast Pacific Ocean nation of Papua New Guinea, is home to some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. As subsistence villagers, communities depend on the forests for water, food, traditional medicines and other essential resources. Working with the Government, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and Conservation International, the residents have recently created the first national conservation area. The new park will preserve forever a region of tropical forest larger than Singapore.
Named for the three rivers that flow through it ñ the Yopno, Uruwa and Som ñ the YUS Conservation Area covers 187,000 acres of lush forest, stretching from Papua New Guinea’s north coast to its interior mountains. The region is also critical habitat for the Matschie’s tree kangaroo ñ an endangered species with a bear-like head, a monkey’s tail and a marsupial’s pouch, found nowhere else in the world.
To make it happen, more than 35 local villages contributed chunks of their own land. They also pledged to maintain its upkeep, including the prohibition of all hunting, logging and mining within the reserve’s boundaries. ‘Such community involvement is an essential component of modern-day conservation,’ says Lisa Dabek, founder of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme. Supported by Conservation International, Lisa has been working with the Papua New Guinean Government and local landowners for over 12 years to establish this reserve.
The area offers multiple benefits for both wildlife and people, not just in the YUS region but for all of us around the world. Protecting its tropical forest will prevent the estimated 13 million tonnes of carbon, stored in the biomass, from being released into the atmosphere.
‘This shows just how much good can be accomplished when governments and people work together,’ says Conservation International President Russ Mittermeier. ‘Congratulations to Papua New Guinea and the communities of the YUS region for protecting such essential ecosystems and the benefits they provide. Hopefully, other tropical forest nations will follow this example, simultaneously combating climate change, while also conserving the ecosystems on which people depend.’
Contact: Tom Cohen, Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive,
Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22202
A juvenile tree kangaroo
Photo: © Russell A. Mittermeier
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