First national park for Timor-Leste
A new project managed by BirdLife will boost conservation in Asia's newest nation. The Australian Government's Regional Natural Heritage Programme (RNHP) has awarded AU$193,000 for the project, which will identify conservation priorities and build partnerships for managing Timor-Leste's first national park. (Timor-Leste was formerly East Timor and has been officially independent since 2002.)
BirdLife has been working with the Government of Timor-Leste (Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, MAFF) for several years on a programme of biological surveys, resulting in the identification of the country's Important Bird Areas (IBAs).
BirdLife has now joined forces with the New South Wales (Australia) Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), whose participation allows the programme to be widened towards establishment of a new national protected areas network. Additional support to the programme is being provided by Australian Volunteers International.
"The creation of East Timor's first national park is an important step for conservation in the country. The Australian Government are to be congratulated on helping to protect the biodiversity of their close neighbours." —Richard Grimmett, Head of BirdLife's Asia Division
The project will focus on the area of highest biodiversity value in East Timor, to build partnerships and collaboratively identify conservation priorities and objectives. It will establish a foundation for community-based conservation via a national protected areas network. The first area to be focussed on will be in the Lore/Lake Iralalaro/Jaco Island region, including three IBAs that hold populations of the Critically Endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea, the Endangered Timor Green-pigeon Treron psittaceus, and several Near Threatened and endemic species.
The RNHP has also awarded BirdLife's Pacific Programme a grant of AU$180,000 for a project entitled Saving Fiji's Forest Hotspots. This initiative aims to develop management plans and improved protection for two forest reserves, obtain Protected Area status for a further two high value conservation areas, educate local people about biodiversity and conservation as well as establishing alternative livelihoods for them.