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Conservation leader from Papua New Guinea wins 2016 Whitley Award

Staff Reporter 5/04/2016 | |

London, Port Moresby, May 3, 2016 –A long term staff of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme in PNG Mr. Kuna Karau was recognised for his outstanding efforts and awarded a Whitley Award, prestigious international nature conservation prize from HRH Princess Anne in London last week. 

The award, worth £35,000 for project funding, was presented to Kuna Karau at a ceremony hosted at the Royal Geographical Society, London, in honour of his work that is bringing together local landowners to ensure protection of the YUS Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea, which is home to a plethora of endangered species including the endemic and endangered Matschies tree kangaroo and birds-of-paradise. 

Situated on the Huon Peninsula and named after the three main rivers in the area, the Yopno, Uruwa and Som, the 1,500km2 YUS conservation area harbours more endemic birds and mammals than any other like-sized area in mainland New Guinea. It is one of only three major Tropical Wilderness areas worldwide. It is so remote that it can only be reached by foot or boat and extends from spectacular mountain ridges to dazzling coral reefs. 

For over a decade Karau and the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme have been working with villagers who own this land. Together they have developed resource use plans that are now recognised in national policy. 
The United Nations Development Programme supports the work of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme through its Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme since 2013. This work is essentially targeted at expanding the terrestrial Conservation Area into 46 hectares of marine environment to protect turtles and dugong habitats. This area has successfully been pledged and marine baseline assessment work completed using the UNDP grant and there is ongoing capacity building anticipated for its marine rangers. 
With his Whitley Award Karau will create additional community plans to manage and carry out conservation actions in the YUS landscape to 2020. Pressure from logging and mining companies is threatening the traditional culture of indigenous people and the project is working to help them to conserve their rich natural heritage for future generations and act as a beacon for other communities to emulate. 
Edward Whitley, Founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, said: “The Awards Ceremony is about recognising and celebrating that – winning those small battles which cumulatively add up to significant change at the national level. In addition to the financial benefit of winning an Award, our winners receive professional communications training to turn scientists into ambassadors, so they’re able to communicate what they’re doing to the public and to policy makers.”
Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of the Whitley Fund for Nature, added: 
“Empowering local people, who understand what the problems are, and who have the local knowledge, determination and vested interest to find the solutions is the very best way to ensure long term protection for the natural world.”

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