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Amazing reefs and volcanos, indigenous traditions and planting mangroves in PNG

Aktualisiert: 19. Aug 2019

I just came back from helping with fieldwork and learning about the clownfish project in Papua New Guinea, short: PNG. PNG is an amazing place with stunning nature and interesting people. To help with data collection and getting an overview of the clownfish populations in Kimbe Bay, I could join researchers from James Cook University (JCU) on their trips to different reefs. I will work with this long term-dataset for my current research project on estimating reef fish mortality in the larval phase collaborating with the research group of Geoff Jones: https://research.jcu.edu.au/portfolio/geoffrey.jones. These researchers do an amazing job in collecting data on various systems.


However, apart from doing excellent research, more effort has to be invested in educating local people if we want to protect this valuable ecosystem. Most of the girls working in the resort next to the research station have never seen the coral reefs and don't know about their importance and threats. To change that, we were taking them on snorkeling trips and showed them some of the reefs, which is something Ben and Gemma try to fit in regularly in their tight field work schedule.

For world environment day, the Walindi Plantation Resort planned a project to plant over 500 mangroves in a restoration project with more than 100 kids from regional schools. In order to have the label "sustainable palm oil", the resort has to have a 200 m buffer zone to the ocean, in which they planted the mangroves. The project also intended to educate local kids about the importance of mangroves for a functioning ecosystem. This education is very important, since the mangroves from last years project were taken down recently from (presumably) locals who fear that mangroves will attract crocodiles to the region. The intentions of this project were good, implementation could be improved massively. One very simple example: only four spades (of which one was broken) were available for all kids....

I was lucky and could experience some traditions of the local tribes: I could join the arrival ceremony of the head of the resort with his newborn. People gathered on the streets to celebrate the arrival of the newborn. Everyone was celebrating, singing and dancing. People were wearing flowers and coloured their faces to bring luck to the baby and his family. One of the older women included us in their tradition and decorated our hair with flowers and painted our faces, so we could be part of this wonderful event.

In full PNG manner my flight was canceled and I had an additional dry day before I could take flight. I took the chance to go hiking on Mount Garbuna, the local Volcano. I could only keep up with our guide Chris (who did the hike barefoot and with only half a liter of water) because he was so kind to wait every now and then. At the end, we were rewarded with an impressive view on the still active crater.

PNG is an amazing country, but I also realized that many things go wrong. The crime rate is high and the country struggles with the sudden appearance of western values. However, even though my white skin color together with the blond hair was attracting looks wherever I went, all the people I met were nice and friendly and I only made good experiences.

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