Wasur National Park

The introduction of the Rusa Deer to Papua by the Dutch at Merauke in 1928, lead to an extensive spread of this species to most of the southern coastlands of the island. According to the indigenous communities of the National Park, this led to major changes to the local ecosystem, including: the reduction of tall swamp grasses and consequent ceasing of breeding of the Australian Pelican and Magpie Goose, reduction of the Phragmites reed species, and the extensive spread of Melaleuca onto the open grasslands.

Satellite image of Southern New Guinea, Wasur NP and Tonda WMA are located between the Merauke and Fly Rivers. Wildfires of 2002 are marked in red.

The Wasur area was first designated as a Wildlife Reserve in 1978 with an area of 2,100 km². An extended area of 4,138 km² was later declared a National Park in 1990. In 2006 the park has been also recognised as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Wasur shares a common border with Tonda Wildlife Management Area (WMA), another Ramsar site in neighbouring Papua New Guinea. Wasur National Park has been the site of a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) conservation and development project since 1991. In 1995 a Tri-National Wetlands Program has been initiated by WWF between Wasur NP, Tonda WMA and the Australian Kakadu National Park, which lead to a Memorandum of Understanding between the three government conservation agencies in 2002.

Human habitation
There are four groups of indigenous peoples living in the park, belonging to the tribes of Kanume, Marind, Marori and Yei, who rely on the area for food and their daily needs. The total population is estimated to be 2,500 within 14 villages[7]. The name of the park is derived from the Marori language in which Waisol means garden.These local communities consume fish, sago, sweet potato, deer, bandicoot and wallaby. Many aspects of their culture are disappearing although some elements such as festivals, pig feasts, dancing, weaving and traditional cooking remain. There are many sites of spiritual significance including sacred sites. The southern part of the park has large areas of ancient agricultural mounds which are of archaeological importance.

Much of the park’s natural flooded grassland systems are threatened by large scale changes to scrub and woodland as well as invasions of alien species such as water hyacinth and mimosa pigra. The New Guinea Crocodile habitat is in danger as a consequence of skin trading.[3] As in other parts of Indonesia and New Guinea, illegal logging has been witnessed in Wasur National Park as well.

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