November 3, 2009

Seacology Prize awarded to Filip Damen, CTFS partner in Papua New Guinea

As the new CTFS plot in Wanang, Papua New Guinea is being established, Filip Damen is being recognized for his heroic efforts to conserve the forest of his community, thereby making the plot and other ecological research in PNG possible.

On October 8th, Filip was awarded the Seacology Prize for 2009 for his remarkable courage in protecting his community’s ancestral lands from destructive logging, and helping develop educational and economic opportunities for the eleven clans that occupy Wanang area in Madang Province, PNG. Seacology awards its prestigious international prize annually to indigenous island leaders who endanger their lives to protect their island’s environment and culture.

Click here for a video clip of Filip’s acceptance speech and the full press release.

Recognizing the threat of logging to biodiversity and the Wanang way of life, Filip led a group of Wanang clans to sign a historic conservation deed in 2000. This agreement united the Wanang clans in their resolve to limit exploitation of the lowland rainforest of their region. Since then, Filip and his community have successfully resisted the relentless pressure from logging interests to sell their land for short-term profit.

Their unique conservation strategy has been to encourage and assist with biological research in their forests. Since 2002, Filip and villagers have been working with Drs. Vojtech Novotny and George Weiblen of the New Guinea Binatang Research Center to conduct ecological research in the Wanang Conservation Area. And just last year, Filip led his community to partner with CTFS to set up the first long-term, large-scale forest dynamics plot in Oceania. This is a great achievement for Filip, for the 50-ha plot in Wanang now gives New Guinea the capacity to monitor its forests and will enable researchers to assess the response of Pacific forests to global change and understand the ecological processes that sustain healthy forest ecosystems in the Pacific region. Funding for the project is provided by John Swire & Sons (PNG) Ltd. and Steamships Trading Co.