In Papua New Guinea the customary harvest of wildlife and natural resources is an essential part of people’s lives: natural ecosystems have provided food and shelter as well as important spiritual and cultural values for thousands of years. While Papua New Guinea is developing rapidly 75% of the people still remain living in rural areas where they still depend on forest and coastal resources for the majority of their food, shelter and medicines. With a growing human population in Papua New Guinea (3.1% a year based on the 2011 census) and an often increased need to become part of the cash economy there is a real risk that the traditional harvest of wildlife and natural resources will become unsustainable, threatening people’s livelihoods and food security and placing populations of wildlife at risk.
WCS PNG is working with local communities to try to ensure that the use of wildlife is sustainable, so that these activities can continue and remain important resources for local people without threatening wildlife populations. The sustainable use of wildlife is a cross-cutting issue and influences our approach to a large range of projects. Whether it is the hunting of Admiralty cuscus on Manus Island; the use of Pesquet’s parrot feather or tree-kangaroo fur for traditional bilas decoration; capturing mud crabs, sea cucumbers and reef fish on the coast; or harvesting coral to manufacture lime; all are issues that relate to the sustainable use of resources.
WCS PNG works closely with local communities to hear their own views on the threats to wildlife and understand the existing management systems that are in place. Following this process, that is led by the community engagement team, WCS’s science team works to develop hunting and harvesting strategies that complement existing management options and promote the sustainable use of resources. Options may include introducing or expanding “no-take” or “tambu” areas where no hunting or fishing takes place, setting size limits and avoiding taking breeding animals, or increasing numbers of harvested species as is the case for WCS’s coral farming project on Andra Island in Manus Province.
As well as working directly with the species that are harvested WCS is also working to increase overall food security within our project sites. During droughts or other extreme weather events (that are increasingly likely due to changing weather patterns from climate change) staple crops often fail, and communities turn to wildlife as their only source of nutrition or access to cash to purchase food. Working in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), WCS is helping communities to diversity the range of food crops and grow more drought and disease tolerant species; thereby increasing food security and relieving the fishing and hunting pressure on wildlife species.