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Mixed Cultural/Natural Property
The property is a mixed cultural and natural site straddling the international border of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. This low-lying region of savannas, wetlands and monsoon forest habitats covers more than 10 million ha. The area is home to some of the largest and healthiest wetlands in the Asia-Pacific region. Combined with the Kakadu World heritage Site, it represents the only environment of its kind in Australasia. Millions of birds inhabit the floodplains of slow moving rivers, and the surrounding savannas and monsoon forests are unique to the Trans-Fly. The area is home to an endemic marsupial cat, flying possums and birds of paradise. Over 50% of New Guinea's total bird population is found in the ecoregion, including 80 species endemic to New Guinea. A complete range of largely intact vegetation types from coastal mangroves through savannas and tropical dry forests includes all representative types of monsoonal climate vegetation. It is suggested that this site could potentially be a serial trans-boundary nomination with 1) the existing Kakadu World Heritage Site in Australia's Northern Territory with which shares many similar environmental conditions and 2) the adjacent savannas, wetlands and monsoon forests of the Indonesian side of the border in Papua Province. The cultural links across the border with Papua, Indonesia are significant - many groups share languages and cultural traditions and many sacred sites and ancestor routes are important to groups on both sides of the border. The biological links to Kakadu are also significant, as a large percentage of the biodiversity is shared between these two sites. However, the Trans-Fly includes many New Guinea endemic species not found in Kakadu.
Protection and Management
The area comprises parts of three Global 200 ecoregions, an endemic bird area and a centre of plant diversity. Part of the area (590,000 ha) has already been designated as a Ramsar site and a site on the Shorebirds Reserve Network. The area also contains approximately 1,310,000ha of existing or currently being gazetted community managed protected areas. The site contains PNG's largest protected area - the 590,000ha Tonda Wildlife Management Area, which is a community managed protected area. The area is lightly populated, most people still living a traditional lifestyle of hunting, gathering and small scale shifting yam cultivation. In PNG most protected areas are managed by a committee of local landowners who decide upon the rules for management. WWF has worked with the Tonda WMA Committee to develop a set of rules that are based on threats to the reserve and have been conducting research into key ecological processes, key species and management concepts to assist the local people to manage the reserve. On the northern edge of Tonda, contiguous with it, three new WMAs are being established with local landowning communities. The total area of these is approximately 720,000ha. The Trans-Fly protected areas are greater than all the rest of the protected areas in PNG put together. These new protected areas cover significant expanses of monsoon forests and some key wetlands in the south and middle Fly floodplains. There is increasing demand for cash income amongst the communities of the Trans-Fly and there is evidence of some unsustainable wildlife harvest of certain species such as Saratoga - a species of fish that is traded over the border with Indonesia. WWF is working with Traffic and local landowners to develop management plans for key species of commercial value.