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TKCP-PNG receives United Nations Equator Prize 2014

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program - Papua New Guinea (TKCP-PNG)—Woodland Park Zoo’s partner non-governmental organization—was recently awarded the United Nations Equator Prize 2014. This highly-esteemed award honors TKCP-PNG’s initiatives in advancing local innovative solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

We’re very proud of TKCP-PNG’s commitment to creating a sustainable landscape to support the animals, habitat, and indigenous communities of Papua New Guinea’s YUS Conservation Area.

Tree kangaroo joey peers out from Mom's pouch. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Last year, Woodland Park Zoo’s flagship conservation program, TKCP, proudly established TKCP-PNG to manage TKCP’s YUS Conservation Area, a 180,000-acre area voluntarily pledged by local landowners to help protect the wildlife native to PNG’s Huon Peninsula. The YUS region (encompassing the Yopno-Uruwa-Som watershed) is home to more than 12,000 people across 52 villages, as well as many endemic and endangered fauna and flora—including the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo, the signature species at the heart of TKCP.

The Equator Prize 2014 recognizes the great impact TKCP-PNG has made to the YUS community through the YUS Conservation Area, the first of its kind in PNG. The Conservation Area has become a model of locally-owned protected forests that not only conserve wildlife but also focus on community health, education and livelihood. Since the YUS Conservation Area’s establishment in 2009, Woodland Park Zoo’s TKCP and TKCP-PNG have made significant improvements to the YUS community, empowering local residents to self-sufficiently manage the community’s environmental and natural resources.  TKCP-PNG ensures that the indigenous landowners and communities drive the efforts of land management and play a leading role in planning, monitoring and managing the land use of the YUS region.

The luscious YUS landscape in Papua New Guinea. Photo by Ryan Hawk/ Woodland Park Zoo.

In recent years, TKCP-PNG and Woodland Park Zoo established a partnership with Caffé Vita, a Seattle-based coffee roaster, to bring alternative revenue to the YUS landowners and their communities. Through a direct trade agreement, YUS farmers have exported nearly 8 tons of coffee over three years to generate profits that benefit 11 local villages. The funds are reinvested in the community through education, health and development projects. As a result, farmers are providing their families and neighbors with necessary schooling, health education and a reliable income. TKCP Director and Senior Conservation Scientist Dr. Lisa Dabek is returning to PNG this fall with a team of Pacific Northwest doctors to develop health trainings, lead midwife workshops, and promote family health and nutrition in the remote YUS region.

Dr. Lisa Dabek will represent TKCP-PNG during the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York in September 2014. Please join us in congratulating TKCP-PNG on their achievements and positive impacts toward community-based conservation.

Matschie’s tree kangaroo in Papua New Guinea. Photo by Bruce Beehler/Conservation International.