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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Zoo’s conservation program receives $2.6 million grant to strengthen biodiversity protection around the globe

Posted by: Alissa Wolken, Communications

We have some very wonderful news to share! Woodland Park Zoo's international field conservation initiative, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP), will receive $2.6 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG) facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support its efforts to protect endangered species and improve the livelihoods of the indigenous people in the Pacific island country of Papua New Guinea.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo plays a major role in protecting wildlife and biodiversity through its many field conservation projects that span the globe; one, in particular, being the zoo’s collaboration with the national government of Papua New Guinea through its Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) and UNDP under its long-term partnership with the award-winning Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program.

“We are incredibly grateful to the GEF, UNDP and CEPA for awarding this significant grant and recognizing the importance of our work,” said Lisa Dabek, Woodland Park Zoo’s senior conservation scientist and TKCP founder and Program Director. Dabek, who has a PhD in animal behavior and conservation biology, said, “The grant will allow us to enhance the management of the 180,000-acre Yopno-Uruwa-Som (YUS) Conservation Area, which protects the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo and a wide range of other endemic rare and endangered species.” Created by indigenous communities with the support of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, the YUS Conservation Area is PNG’s first and only nationally-recognized conservation area. “Based on our model, we hope to see the PNG government establish more conservation areas by the end of this five-year project.”

 Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

TKCP received the grant from GEF. Established in 1992, the GEF has become a widely admired international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions and civil society organizations working together to address global environmental issues. The grant supports a national five-year project titled “Strengthening Management Effectiveness of the National System of Protected Areas” and will be implemented by CEPA in collaboration with UNDP, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program through Woodland Park Zoo and Tenkile Conservation Alliance. 

TKCP’s portion of the project will focus on strengthening the capacity of local communities to manage the YUS Conservation Area and will support sustainable livelihoods throughout 50 remote villages nearby. “Through this project, the YUS Conservation Area will officially serve as the model for community-based conservation in the country,” said Dabek. “Building on our work over the past 20 years, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and Woodland Park Zoo are playing a major, unprecedented role in protecting wildlife and biodiversity at the national level in Papua New Guinea.” TKCP’s lessons and insights gained in YUS will guide the development of national policies for managing protected areas, to be applied throughout PNG – one of the most biodiverse countries on earth.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

TKCP was created by Dabek and TKCP team in 1996 to study the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo and find ways to conserve the species in partnership with the local people. Over the past 20 years, the program has grown and evolved into a holistic program supporting habitat protection for a wide range of threatened species, as well as initiatives to enhance local community livelihoods and access to government services. Such initiatives include: training the country’s first Conservation Rangers to patrol protected areas and monitor wildlife in the area; partnering with Seattle’s Caffé Vita to help farmers produce and export high-quality, conservation-friendly coffee beans; providing scholarships to help YUS students earn teaching certificates and return to teach in village schools; and partnering with health professionals to provide basic health training and supplies for preventive care, sanitation, nutrition and reproductive health.

TKCP is a leader in taking a multidisciplinary approach to conservation and has received several accolades including the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (AZA) International Conservation Award in 2002 and 2014 and the United Nations Equator Prize in 2014. In addition, Dabek has recently been nominated for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize in recognition of her groundbreaking wildlife conservation efforts through the program.

Cheers to TKCP and the wonderful work its staff and volunteers are doing to protect the diverse landscapes of Papua New Guinea!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

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