People of Morokea protect future of biodiversity

October 31, 2021

Lake Umboli Biodiversity Conservation Project conducted rapid assessments of identified significant areas.

In West New Britain, an island province of Papua New Guinea, a local community-based organisation is stepping up to protect nature as monoculture expansion and logging activities threaten biodiversity.

Lake Umboli is a traditional and customary icon to the people of Morokea, and the surrounding village of Ruango. The lake is located within the Whiteman Range, a mountainous region in West New Britain province, south of Kimbe, covering an area of 175,703 ha and rich in biodiversity.

Wildlife and bird species move further up Whiteman Range as a result of habitat destruction. Photo: Ted Mamu/ UNDP Papua New Guinea      

An initiative of the Pa’Ubol Koverng Conservation Alliance based in Morokea Village, the Lake Umboli Biodiversity Conservation Project is working on measures to address threats to local biodiversity, in partnership with West New Britain Community Development Forum (a local non-government organization specialising in project management at the community level).

Biodiversity at the Lake Umboli conservation site is under threat at an alarming rate as it shares a border with logging activities. On one side are mere memories of pristine forest, and on the other side standing tall are majestic trees of the remaining forest.

The surrounding lake area is important habitat for multiple local species within the conservation buffer zone. Most notable are the keystone tree species of ficusartocarpus and canarium inducum that perform important ecosystem services and supply shelter and breeding habitat for bats, birds, and cassowaries. Intact forest promotes natural regeneration to encompass critical environmental values.

'Only a matter of time before oil palm development in the province also reaches this region' - Theodora Maea      

Ms Theodora Maea, the project lead of the Lake Umboli Biodiversity Conservation Project, explains that in recent years logging has damaged the surrounding forested area, and it is only a matter of time before oil palm development in the province also reaches this region.

Dedication and commitment from the local community, and key stakeholders in biodiversity conservation, is propelling the project to ensure that this important site is protected for future generations.

The vital rapid assessment to document the biodiversity values of the Lake Umboli Project site was enabled by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The GEF Small Grants Programme supports local communities, community-based organizations and non-government organizations in providing financial and technical support to projects and initiatives that conserve and restore the environment, while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods.