Q&A: Sci­en­tist Tim Flan­nery

The in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed sci­en­tist, ex­plorer, con­ser­va­tion­ist and cli­mate change ac­tivist is es­cort­ing a PNG cruise.

Paradise - - Contents -

Q: You have trav­elled to Pa­pua New Guinea pre­vi­ously. Can you tell us about those trav­els?

A: I made over 20 trips to PNG from 1981 to 2001. I was a mam­mal re­searcher at the Aus­tralian Mu­seum at the time, and I vis­ited most of the coun­try look­ing for mam­mals such as tree kan­ga­roos and ka­puls. I spent the long­est time in San­daun Prov­ince, around Tele­fomin and Lumi. The re­gion is so beau­ti­ful, with amaz­ing moun­tain ranges, and it is the home of very in­ter­est­ing cul­tures. I trav­elled ev­ery­where with Lester Seri, who is now a se­nior chief from the Wanigela area. We had a lot of fun, as well as mak­ing amaz­ing dis­cov­er­ies.

Q: What were some of those amaz­ing dis­cov­er­ies?

A: I dis­cov­ered that many of PNG’s largest mam­mals had not been sci­en­tif­i­cally de­scribed. Ear­lier ex­plor­ers had been reluctant to go into the bush for long pe­ri­ods with the lo­cal ex­pert hunters, so these hardto-find species had been over­looked. They in­cluded three tree kan­ga­roos (the tenkile, golden man­tled and Seri’s tree kan­ga­roo) and a wal­laby (the alpine pademelon).

Q: What is tak­ing you to PNG this time?

meet some peo­ple un­like any­one else we’ve met. And there’s al­ways the chance that we’ll come across some un­known crea­ture.

Q: What ex­cites you about PNG?

A: I love the warm heart­ed­ness of the peo­ple, the beauty of the land­scapes, and the ex­cite­ment of be­ing in such a poorly known place. There is nowhere else like it.

Q: Are there still new things to dis­cover in PNG?

A: There are still many things to dis­cover in PNG – even new mam­mals. Among the in­sects and plants there are many, many dis­cov­er­ies to be made. It will take the work of gen­er­a­tions of sci­en­tists – hope­fully Pa­pua New Guineans them­selves – be­fore the na­tion’s bio­di­ver­sity is doc­u­mented.

Q: The Solomon Is­lands are also on the itin­er­ary for your up­com­ing cruise. What do you look for­ward to there?

A: Pa­pua New Guinea is al­ready feel­ing se­ri­ous cli­mate im­pacts, with peo­ple be­ing forced to flee their is­land homes due to ris­ing seas. Sadly, un­less Green­house gas emis­sions are re­duced, many na­tive birds and an­i­mals are threat­ened with ex­tinc­tion. Thank­fully, Pa­pua New Guineans are real cham­pi­ons in dis­cus­sions to ad­dress cli­mate change. I watch at the in­ter­na­tional meet­ings in ad­mi­ra­tion as they ar­gue, elo­quently, from first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence, of the need to tackle the is­sue. For a small coun­try, they have a big im­pact. ■

The World Ex­pe­di­tions’ ‘Me­lane­sia Dis­cov­erer’ cruise with Tim Flan­nery is from Oc­to­ber 8–21. The itin­er­ary starts in Madang, with fares from $US6995 a per­son for a triple cabin. High­lights in­clude bird-watch­ing, ex­plor­ing the Sepik River, vol­ca­noes and atolls. See world­ex­pe­di­tions.com. Cruise pas­sen­gers can con­nect from Port Moresby to Madang with Air Ni­ug­ini, which flies there daily.

See airni­ug­ini.com.pg.

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