YUS - Papua New Guinea's first conservation area

The YUS Conservation Area was created in 2009 as Papua New Guinea's first conservation reserve, and derives its name from the Yopno, Uruwa and Som rivers that flow through it. Located on the north coast of the Huon Peninsula, east of the town of Madang, the protected area covers some 78,700ha of tropical rainforest along with village gardens, plantations and grasslands, as well as 46ha of coral studded coastal waters. The impetus to set up the area was to protect the habitat of the endangered Huon tree kangaroo, but the charismatic marsupial has now become a flagship for protecting an extraordinary variety of other unique and wonderful species found on the Huon Peninsula.

Many of the plants and animals in YUS are culturally important to the local people. Recognising that wildlife was becoming scarcer, clans from more than 50 villages in the area came together to set aside parcels of their own land for the protected area. On this land they have committed not to hunt, log the forest or extract resources. Such close collaboration with local communities is essential to set up and maintain protected areas, because more than 95 per cent of PNG’s land remains the property of the indigenous clans who inhabit it. Through the YUS Conservation Organisation, local communities have been empowered to work together to manage the reserve, and also to develop community development projects including health, education and sustainable livelihood initiatives.

See the current issue (May-June 2014) of Australian Geographic magazine for a story
 about the YUS Conservation Area



Why target maternal health?

Somewhere in the world a woman dies every 90 seconds from complications of birth. Of these deaths, 99 per cent occur in developing countries. The vast majority are preventable. Australia is one of the safest places to have a baby in the world. Here, women face a risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth of less than one in 10,000. In stark contrast neighbouring countries such as Papua New Guinea, remote parts of Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, this figure is a staggering one in 20. When mothers die, they leave more than one million children behind each year.

 - Dr Barry Kirby (www.sendhope.org/png)


The YUS Conservation Area is located in one of the most remote regions of Papua New Guinea. Due to a lack of resources, transportation and the difficulty in traversing the rugged terrain in this remote area, the people of YUS have been unable to access the health services which would otherwise be provided by the PNG health department.

Healthy Village, Healthy Forest Project

In order to address this lack of access, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (the organisation that was instrumental in the establishment and management of the YUS Conservation Area) has developed the Healthy Village, Healthy Forest Project. Under this project, TKCP partners with the PNG Medical Research Institute and the PNG District and Provincial Health Departments to provide training and medical treatment through TKCP-sponsored health patrols across YUS. The local villagers have identified maternal and infant health as a key priority for the community. To help address this issue our fundraising will contribute to TKCP’s project by helping with the establishment of safe birthing houses, training of village birth assistants and provision of essential basic supplies for mother & infant health.


Does saving children lead to overpopulation?

There is a common myth that saving poor children in developing countries leads to overpopulation. The opposite is in fact true. Where child mortality is highest in the world, population growth is highest because parents need to compensate for the loss of children. Statistics from around the world consistently indicate that educating women and ensuring they are healthy lowers maternal and infant mortality and enables parents to choose to have smaller families. (for a great perspective on this issue see Hans Rosling explain how this works)

In short, look after the women in remote, poor regions such as YUS ensures that the children are healthy. Healthy children and women make for healthy villages, and ultimately a healthy community means a healthy forest and environment. 

Map of the YUS Conservation Area, Morobe Province, PNG (reproduced from Australian Geographic magazine)

Map of the YUS Conservation Area, Morobe Province, PNG (reproduced from Australian Geographic magazine)

View a short film about the establishment of the YUS Conservation Area: