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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

With Seattle zoo's help, villagers get jump on saving tree kangaroos

Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo has helped villagers in Papua New Guinea secure permanent protection for 187,800 acres of pristine tropical forest in the country's first-ever national conservation area. The land is owned by villagers who decided to create the refuge for the sweet-faced Matschie's tree kangaroo, an endangered species that lives nowhere else.

Keeping to itself for much of its life in the tropical treetops, the fuzzy-faced tree kangaroo doesn't seem a likely vanguard for a revolution.

But so it is in Papua New Guinea, where conservation biologists from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo worked with residents of some 35 native villages to seal the country's first-ever conservation deal, preserving 187,800 acres of tropical forest stretching from the country's northern coast to the interior mountains.

The owners of the property are indigenous people, who committed for the first time to managing their land as a national conservation area, off-limits to hunting, mining, logging or other development.

The conservation area protects a large, pristine swath of the Huon Peninsula, the only known habitat of the wild Matschie's tree kangaroo, long hunted by the villagers as part of their subsistence economy. The small animal munches mostly tree leaves, flowers and ferns. Only about 3 feet high and weighing as much as a large sack of birdseed, it is one of 54 species of kangaroos, and can leap 60 feet to the ground from a tree without getting hurt.

Read on

The Painting is by Benjamin William Leader

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