|Karau Kuna and Collegue from TKCP-PNG|
Story and image by Kevin Dayonga, Member of the Pacific Emerging Environment Leaders Network at the World Parks Congress.
The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program is a community conservation area and locally-owned forest, the first of its kind in Papua New Guinea. The locally-driven initiative undertakes a range of activities to protect the watershed and provide the local population with sustainable livelihoods. The conservation area covers 78,729 hectares of habitat, protecting endemic and endangered wildlife species, including the tree kangaroo.
The organisation has partnered with the private sector and the government on a conservation livelihoods programme and a coffee harvesting project, which has brought in more than USD 20,000.
Revenues from this programme have been invested into community health, education and conservation projects. The initiative represents a unique model of community mobilisation and leadership, and is the first time that the diverse collection of indigenous communities involved in the initiative have come together to advance a shared conservation and sustainable livelihoods agenda.
This first national conservation area was established in 2009, after more than a decade of work on the ground by The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Project (TKCP). The forest ecosystem teems with life and provides resources and services that sustain the 10,000 villagers living in the conservation area.
The area represents critical habitat for Matschie’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschei), an endangered species with a bear-like head, monkey’s tail and a marsupial’s pouch.
In 2010 the German Development Bank funded a collaborative project including James Cook University, TKCP and Conservation International, to investigate issues related to ecology, conservation, livelihoods and carbon sequestration in the YUS Conservation area.
After winning the prestigious Equator prize, political leaders in the Morobe province of Papua New Guinea have pledged K300,000 to support the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP) in the Yus council area.
Their financial backing was prompted after United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Equator Initiative announced TKCP-PNG as one of the winners of the prestigious Equator Prize 2014, which recognises outstanding local achievement in advancing sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities and focuses on community-based grassroots action.
The team is in Sydney attending the World Parks Congress and are taking this time to network and share experiences with their fellow conservationists and to foster long term relationships.
Karau Kuna, one of the officers with TKCP-PNG, said this opportunity of sharing ideas and having one voice to tell the world leaders about lives and the environment we live in is one way of fighting for the rights of our generation and the preservation of the environment.