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Papua New Guinea declares first national conservation area
Date:3/2/2009

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea The southeast Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea, home to some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, has created its first national conservation area to preserve forever a swath of pristine tropical forest larger than Singapore.

The decision by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, in concert with local communities neighboring the newly established YUS Conservation Area, results from more than a decade of work with conservation biologists from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and Arlington, Va.-based Conservation International (CI).

Named for its three main rivers the Yopno, Uruwa and Som of the Huon Peninsula the YUS Conservation Area covers 187,800 acres (76,000 hectares or 760 square kilometers) of tropical forest stretching from PNG's northern coast to interior mountains.

A hallmark of modern conservation, the new protected area offers multiple benefits for both wildlife and people. The tropical forest stores huge amounts of carbon, so protecting it prevents the release of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The lush forest ecosystem teems with life and provides countless resources and services that sustain the 10,000 villagers living in the surrounding YUS ecosystem. In addition, the forest is critical habitat for Matschie's tree kangaroos, a species listed as Endangered by the IUCN and one of Earth's more unique creatures with a bear-like head, bushy tail and marsupial's pouch.

"By creating the country's first national conservation area, the PNG government and people have established a much-needed safe zone for the irreplaceable biodiversity it contains," said Dr. Lisa Dabek, field conservation director at Woodland Park Zoo and director of the zoo's Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program. "Just as important, the protected area will contribute to long-term efforts to address the climate change threat by preserving critical forest habitat."

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Contact: Tom Cohen
tcohen@conservation.org
703-341-2729
Conservation International
Source:Eurekalert

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