Culture and Nature

Papua New Guinea is a global hot spot for biodiversity and also for cultural diversity, with over 800 separate languages and over a thousand different cultures recorded in the country. 

Within PNG the cultural diversity closely reflects the biodiversity and the traditional harvest of wildlife as body decorations is an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. Initiatives 

WCS PNG, with the support of The Christensen Foundation, is undertaking research to better understand how wildlife is harvested and used to keep the country’s many different cultures alive. WCS is pursuing an interdisciplinary approach using Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK), conservation biology, and social science to examine the interactions of nature and culture in Papua New Guinea. The project also aims to identify threatened species of wildlife, and work with relevant authorities and communities to monitor the sustainable use of wildlife while ensuring that this culture is still active. 


Over the last two years, WCS PNG has conducted interviews with 142 cultural dance groups on the use of wildlife. These surveys have been carried out at twelve different cultural shows, geographically spread from the highlands to the islands of Papua New Guinea. The most common species of wildlife articles used throughout Papua New Guinea are Raggiana bird of paradise, cassowary, lorikeets, cockatoos and monitor lizards. The Highland regions utilize more wildlife than other provinces in the country. As well as the previous species Highland people hunt and use feathes from Pesquet’s parrot, Stephanie’s’ astrapia, black sickle bill, lorikeets, king of Saxony bird of paradise and long-tailed buzzard, and the fur from Good fellow’s tree-kangaroo, spotted cuscus and mountain cuscus. 

One of the objectives of this project is to produce practical information on such interactions to inform decisions by wildlife consumers, landowners and government. Following up on the surveys WCS PNG is undertaking research on some of the most commonly used and threatened species including the Manus green tree snail (see this link for more on this species) and Pesquet’s parrot (follow this link). 

The results of the project and images collected will also serve as an archived “snap -shot” of the interactions between nature and culture, help build pride in this unique relationship and contribute to the cultural mapping of Papua New Guinea. To this end WCS works in partnership with the National Cultural Commission to share knowledge from this project.

John Par Kagl
Community Engagement Officer

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