Species discoveries draw world’s attention

Normal, Papua

THE  new species discoveries made by a BBC documentary team around Mt Bosavi, Southern Highlands province, have  helped draw the world’s attention to a region rich in biodiversity, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) terrestrial manager in PNG David Melick said last Friday.
Dr Melick said WWF had been working in the region, which also covers a large part of Gulf province since the mid-1990s.
He said in 2006, three wildlife management areas were declared to protect some of the country’s most threatened wildlife habitats.
“The forests are home to unique wildlife, including birds of paradise, giant cassowaries and tree kangaroos, as well as orchids and other plant life.”
Dr Melick said the WWF’s expeditions there had also brought strong results.
Over the course of expeditions to the Kikori region between 1998 and 2006, WWF teams collected some 300 species of orchids; of those, at least eight were confirmed as new species, and 20 awaited verification.
“And we particularly acknowledge the role of the Oil Search Limited and its joint venture partners, in supporting the ongoing research and conservation efforts to pursue best practice development,” he said
Mt Bosavi region, which BBC will feature on The Lost Land of the Volcano series tomorrow on BBC1 (not available in PNG), lies within the Kikori catchment between Southern Highlands and Gulf provinces.
The Kikori Basin has a variety of forest habitats that are home to some of PNG’s most threatened species, as well as dramatic landscape features that include the needle karsts of the extensive Darai limestone, the remarkable Hegigio Gorge and the spectacular Wassi and Wawoi waterfalls. 
“The very high biodiversity and the spectacular scenery led to the acceptance of the Kikori River Basin adjoining the Great Papuan Plateau onto the Unesco World Heritage tentative list in 2006,” Dr Melick said.
WWF PNG communications officer Lydia Kaia said the WWF had been working in PNG since 1995.
“Our work focuses on linking community action, science and effective policy to ensure the protection and sustainable use of forests, freshwater and marine resources across the island of New Guinea,” Ms Kaia said.