WildArk Announces New Conservation Project in remote Papua New Guinea

a 42,000 acre Rainforest Conservancy

The island of New Britain viewed from the air. © Alan Smuskowitz / WildArk

WildArk is partnering with Tuke Community and Baia Sport Fishing Lodge to announce its second biodiversity project beginning this year deep in the rainforests of the Nakanai Mountains on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea (PNG) in an effort to protect the rich biodiversity around the region.

The Nakanai Mountains on the island of New Britain was proposed as a World Heritage site in 2006 by the PNG government and currently remains on the Tentative World Heritage list. Since then the island has been heavily logged and cleared for palm oil plantations, leaving only pockets of lowland forest intact. Fortunately, large tracts of remote Montane forest, such as the Tuke region, remain undisturbed.

Whilst the Montane forests of New Britain have been scarcely surveyed, there are dozens of known endemic and endangered trees, mammals and bird species that the Tuke Rainforest Conservancy hopes to help protect and advance the research of. The WWF ecoregions site https://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/aa0111 describes some of these species, most importantly pointing out; “The current haphazard method of logging forests for any large, straight tree has many adverse effects… Protected areas connecting the lowland and montane forests are needed for conservation.”

Images captured of logging activities happening in the Nakania Mountains of New Britain, Papua New Guinea. © Luke McNee

Thomas Telgonu, Tuke Community spokesperson and Secretary of the Landowners Group, says:

“Our rainforest is the source of our heritage, daily life and meaning. We have lived in this region for thousands of years, making our home among the trees and waterfalls. We want to see our land protected from logging, while providing opportunities for our children who will become the custodians of the rainforest.

We have seen what has happened to other areas. When our forest is gone, we will have nothing left. We are pleased to be working with WildArk and Baia to keep our community, culture and rainforest intact.”

Tuke Rainforest Conservancy will preserve an initial 42,000 acres, protecting the rainforest from logging and palm oil activities that are pressuring the region. The WildArk team and Baia Sports Fishing Lodge owner, Riccard Reimann, began scoping the project during their visit in March 2017.

Reimann said, “Having lived and worked on the coast of New Britain my whole life, I was unaware of how diverse and magnificent the inland mountain areas were before I visited the village. The community living there have vision and passion for their rainforest that is inspirational. I want to see this area protected forever, maintaining not just the rich ecosystem, but as importantly the culture of the people.”

The beautiful smiling women of Tuke Village. © Tiana Reimann

WildArk plans to initiate the project in 2018 with research and planning activities that will provide long-term biodiversity protection around the region.

Activities include:

· University lead research team mapping the largely unknown biodiversity in the area

· Education and medical support for the Tuke Community

· Scoping the potential for hiking, bird watching, river and rainforest low-impact ecotourism

· Identifying and training members of the Tuke Community to monitor and report illegal logging activities in the area

· Assisting in the development of subsistence agriculture, renewable energy and better health outcomes

(Photo Left) (L-R) The waterfalls of Tuke. (Photo Right) Thomas Telgonu, Tuke
Community spokesperson and Secretary of the Landowners Group.
All Photos: © Tiana Reimann

In 2017, the WildArk team documented their trip to Tuke whilst witnessing the devastating impact logging was having in the lower regions of the rainforest. https://youtu.be/9aJ5inINCvM

WildArk founders, Mark and Sophie Hutchinson, are excited about the opportunity. “We’ve been visiting and working with Riccard at Baia for over 15-years, witnessing the once pristine coastline being transformed into logging camps and palm oil plantations.

When Riccard reached out to WildArk regarding a mountain community contacting him to protect their region from logging, we jumped at the opportunity to get involved. This project contains all the ingredients of a holistic approach to conservation; rich biodiversity on community owned land; local willingness and leadership; health, education and employment opportunities; ability to greatly extend the conservancy into the future. Off the back of our first project the Pridelands Conservancy with our South African partners, the Tuke Rainforest Conservancy is a step up in scale and community engagement, so we’re very excited to see this commence”, say the Hutchinsons.

During 2018, WildArk will continue to update on progress of the project and plans to run fundraising activities to support the long-term protection of the Tuke region.

To keep up to date on Tuke Rainforest Conservancy, visit the WildArk website: http://wildarkorg.wpengine.com/conservation/