Port Moresby Na­ture Park recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally

Ni­cola Gage re­ports on the Port Moresby at­trac­tion that is re­ceiv­ing in­ter­na­tional ac­co­lades.

Paradise - - Contents -

Sur­rounded by trop­i­cal plants and the calm­ing hum of na­tive birds, it’s easy to for­get you’re in Pa­pua New Guinea’s cap­i­tal while ex­plor­ing Port Moresby’s Na­ture Park.

You might en­counter the en­dan­gered pes­quet par­rot or come face to face with a cas­sowary – in that mo­ment, you could be lost in part of the coun­try’s dense, un­touched jun­gle.

The park has come a long way since 2012 when it trans­formed from the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens. Re­cently, it re­ceived in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for the sec­ond time from the Zoo and Aquar­ium As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­trala­sia (ZAA) for its work.

“You can see now, all of the hard work is pay­ing off,” the park’s gen­eral man­ager, Michelle McGe­orge, says. “It’s re­ally the first time that an in­sti­tute hold­ing an­i­mals in this coun­try has re­ceived an award and been recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

It’s no se­cret that PNG has one of the most di­verse and unique en­vi­ron­ments in the world. De­spite the coun­try mak­ing up less than one per cent of the globe’s land area, it con­tains more than seven per cent of the world’s bio­di­ver­sity; more than 700 bird species and 20,000 plant types live here, with sci­en­tists con­tin­u­ing to dis­cover more.

The na­ture park is a mi­cro­cosm of the in­cred­i­ble PNG en­vi­ron­ment; a canopy walk­way leads you through sev­eral ex­hibits where you can see tree kan­ga­roos, a mul­ti­tude of birds and count­less other an­i­mals and plants. It runs a se­ries of pro­grams to teach peo­ple about pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment – much of PNG’s land re­mains in­ter­na­tion­ally un­pro­tected.

“For us, the park is re­ally about hav­ing a voice to pro­mote those (en­vi­ron­men­tal) is­sues and raise aware­ness,” McGe­orge says.

“Tourism has been a fan­tas­tic ben­e­fit but the mis­sion of the char­ity is to ed­u­cate Pa­pua New Guineans on their bio­di­ver­sity, and for them to want to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.”

The park’s award from ZAA in May recog­nised this work – specif­i­cally, in ed­u­cat­ing

The na­ture park is a mi­cro­cosm of the in­cred­i­ble PNG en­vi­ron­ment.

youth. Six years ago, a few thou­sand stu­dents were com­plet­ing the park’s ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram, learn­ing about the coun­try’s unique bio­di­ver­sity. That num­ber jumped to more than 19,000 chil­dren last year. It’s ex­pected to rise again in 2018–19.

The park is some­what of the quiet achiever of Port Moresby. Tourists of­ten fly in, only to jump on an­other flight to the hotspots of East New Bri­tain, Kavieng or Milne Bay. But man­agers at the park are slowly at­tempt­ing to change this, en­cour­ag­ing tourists to spend an ex­tra night in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, to learn about its fas­ci­nat­ing flora and fauna.

In Septem­ber, the park is go­ing through ZAA’s for­mal in­ter­na­tional ac­cred­i­ta­tion process, to be con­sid­ered an in­ter­na­tional wel­fare-ac­cred­ited zoo. This will be a huge feat not only na­tion­ally, but on an in­ter­na­tional stage; it will be the first time a de­vel­op­ing coun­try has ever sat a test of this cal­i­bre.

“Just the fact that we’re mem­bers (of ZAA) is still a mas­sive achieve­ment be­cause we had to sub­mit a whole lot of pol­icy and show that we were op­er­at­ing at what they con­sid­ered an ab­so­lute min­i­mum level,” McGe­orge says.

“When we have the ac­cred­i­ta­tion, our wel­fare stan­dards will be con­sid­ered equal to Taronga Zoo (Syd­ney), Mel­bourne Zoo, all of the top zoos in our re­gion.

“For us, it’s more about say­ing that PNG is the leader in this space.

“It also means that it opens more doors for us in­ter­na­tion­ally with part­ner­ships, with other zoos and even the UN, for ex­am­ple.”

This year, the park will see a new bird of par­adise ex­hibit open, as well as a rep­tile precinct.

McGe­orge thinks of the park as the gate­way to PNG; tourists can visit and get a holis­tic taste of PNG, be­fore head­ing off on their hol­i­days else­where.

“I guess this is a bit like the teaser or the snap­shot of PNG,” she says.

“You can come in and see dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, dif­fer­ent arte­facts and cul­tural dis­plays. It’s that hope we have that we can at least ex­cite in them (tourists) the de­sire to come back and travel fur­ther.”

Na­ture ram­ble ... a group of young­sters at Port Moresby Na­ture Park (above) and one of the feath­ered res­i­dents (op­po­site page).

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