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The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program uses a community-based strategy to document the natural history and conservation status of tree kangaroos through scientific research and interviews with local landowners and villagers. The program identifies and maps critical habitat; expands health care for villagers including vaccinations and midwife training; improves schools through support of teachers and curriculum development; implements and maintains conservation education programs; and empowers local villages to manage natural resources by training Papua New Guinea university students and local landowners as field research assistants and conservation advocates.
The Papua New Guinea Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program is based at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, and has offices in Lae, Papua New Guinea and Cairns, Australia. Under the direction of Dr. Lisa Dabek, a National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program grantee, the program has been working in Papua New Guinea since 1996. Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program works in close partnership with Conservation International and other conservation organizations and universities in Papua New Guinea and throughout the world. A major funder for this field initiative is the German Ministry for Environment (BMU) and its International Climate Initiative, managed in cooperation with the German Development Bank (KfW).
Papua New Guinea, particularly the Huon Peninsula, is considered a high-priority area for conservation efforts due to the significant amount of intact rain forest, high species endemism and lack of protected areas for wildlife. Destruction of the rain forest by mining, logging, and development threatens the continued existence of Papua New Guineaâ€™s unique fauna and flora, including the endangered Matschieâ€™s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei), a flagship species for Papua New Guineaâ€™s people.
It is estimated that close to 80% of Papua New Guinea citizens rely directly on the environment for sustenance, and over 95% of the countryâ€™s land remains in customary clan ownership. Consequently, the people of Papua New Guinea have a unique opportunity to chart a course towards stewardship of their natural resourcesâ€”a movement that is intrinsically connected to their present and future self-sufficiency, dignity and self-empowerment. The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program works towards this goal in a region of the Huon Peninsula known as the YUS area, named for its three main rivers: Yopno, Uruwa and Som. As an international community-based program, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program works with Papua New Guinea village landowners and families, university students and faculty, government officials and many Non-Government Organizations. Investment in communities has fostered trust in Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and its goals, and has been vital to the development of conservation awareness in local communities.