A mis­sion to save PNG rain­for­est

Con­ser­va­tion group starts project in New Bri­tain

Paradise - - In Paradise | Contents -

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).

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