A mission to save PNG rainforest
Conservation group starts project in New Britain
Conservation organisation WildArk has its sights set on Papua New Guinea, with a project in the Nakanai Mountains on the island of New Britain.
WildArk is teaming up with the Tuke community and the Baia Sportfishing Lodge to establish the Tuke Rainforest Conservancy to protect about 17,000 hectares of lush tropical rainforest from logging and palm oil plantations.
A project team is already planning activities that will assist in the development of subsistence agriculture and renewable energy, as well as provide long-term biodiversity protection in the region through education.
The team is also researching the potential for low-impact ecotourism and aims to train people in the Tuke community to monitor illegal logging activities.
WildArk and Baia Sportfishing Lodge began discussing the project early last year.
Lodge owner, Riccard Reimann, had been visited by elders from the Tuke village who told him that logging threatened the rainforest.
The project is perfect for WildArk, which does not take ownership of the land, but leases it and helps with education and medical assistance to ensure the community can maintain its way of life.
The Nakanai Mountains were proposed as a World Heritage site in 2006 by the PNG government and remain 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.
WildArk has entered into a 10-year arrangement with the community to protect the rainforest, with a view of increasing this to 99 years and investigating expanding the conservation area to surrounding communities.
WildArk has some high-profile ambassadors, including world champion surfer Mick Fanning.
With PNG known for its incredible surfing, WildArk hopes at some point get Fanning over for a visit.
“Papua New Guinea has incredible waves on offer that are essentially empty, so Mick is intrigued by the prospect of scoring some uncrowded waves, hiking into Tuke and building awareness for Papua New Guinea conservation,” says Mark Hutchinson who co-founded WildArk in 2016 with his wife Sophie.
The first project by the Australians was in South Africa where they established the Pridelands Conservancy, and they are also looking to start projects in Alaska, Zambia, Kenya, Borneo and India. See wildark.com.
On the wild side ... WildArk co-founder Mark Hutchnison looks over destroyed forest (left); New Britain has some of the world's largest underwater rivers and spectacular waterfalls (right).