Tree Kangaroo Story - YUS Conservation Program
The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Project (TKCP) is the umbrella name for partnership between the Woodland Park Zoo’s (Seattle USA) TKCP, and the TKCP in Papua New Guinea. This International partnership promotes a holistic approach to protecting the endangered tree kangaroo species.
The remote area of the Huon Peninsula, north of Lae in PNG, is the tenuous home and landscape of several endangered species. These include the Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo, the Eastern Long Beaked Echidna, the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle, along with a myriad of other threatened species.
The TKCP has focussed on the endangered Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo and the habitat in which it lives. The project started in 1996 directed at research to understand the species in the Wild and assess the effectiveness of the conservation efforts. This research continues to study the diet, behaviour and habitat of the Tree Kangaroo who live in elevations between 1,000 and 3,500mts.
The initiative now includes a program to enhance local community livelihoods and access to government services. It now also includes marine and coastal ecosystems along with rainforests, grasslands and agricultural settlements, and covers over 48 thousand hectares.
These areas belong to over 50 villages within the Yopno, Uruwa and Som (YUS) precincts on the Huon Peninsula.
12,000 local landholders own and control 90% of the land and so habitat protection, conservation and opportunities for these families, relies heavily on the commitment and participation of these local communities, who in turn, depend on the forest’s products and services. This includes coffee trees that grow within the forest canopy, and Jasper Coffee is now connected in this partnership.
In 2014, the TKCP in PNG was awarded the prestigious United Nations Development Program Award, the Equator Prize, which recognises local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.
The TKCP has enabled many constructive social and economic changes. Leadership Training has been important to ensure long-term sustainability of the conservation and community development efforts. In 2015, 98 trained village leaders, helped educate the communities with plans for conserving the forest and improving their livelihoods. The TKCP has assisted with a teacher scholarship program and helped fill vacant teaching positions within YUS. A TKCP Junior Ranger Program has inspired young people in the need for conservation and sustainable improvement for their future livelihood.
TKCP has also initiated health training workshops in YUS, focussing on issues related to pregnancy, childbirth and nutrition, along with common respiratory illnesses and malaria.
A community forest-nurseries project was introduced to produce locally and culturally important trees, to reduce harvesting pressures on protected areas, while ensuring these trees are available for future generations.
Since 2009, Zoos Victoria invested in the TKCP YUS Conservation Coffee initiative, in partnership with Seattle’s Caffé Vita coffee company. In 2015, training in coffee husbandry and post production management resulted in increased production and better quality of the coffee.
This in turn, enabled direct relationships with producer and roaster so farmers received far higher prices for their beans with a reliable market. With this economic improvement, the farmers are even more engaged to participate with the habitat and wildlife protection.
This TKCP investment has delivered capacity-building and improved farmer access to markets. By providing YUS coffee farmers with access to technical knowledge and a premium international market, this coffee conservation initiative has helped farmers earn approx. US$30,000 more than they would have earned through local markets.
The coffee trees were introduced to this remote Peninsula in early 1950’s, but because of the high and difficult terrain and that people had to carry the parchment several days to market with no profit, the coffee was abandoned to the forest where it grows today. This YUS region is excellent for high grade coffee, with rich fertile black soil, altitude up to 2,400mt (some of the highest grown coffee in the World) and heirloom Typica varietals, enhanced by distinct climate.