October 14th, 2014 

-- For immediate release --

Scientists worried over plans to log paradise island

A leading scientific group is concerned that a tropical island rich with unique species and indigenous peoples could be overrun by industrial logging.

“Woodlark Island is a biological jewel—home to at least 42 species that occur nowhere else on Earth,” said William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Australia and director of ALERT—the Alliance of Leading Environmental Scientists and Thinkers. 

The island, located off the eastern coast of Papua New Guinea, has also supported native subsistence groups for thousands of years.

Now, a Malaysian logging company, Karridale Limited, plans to log a large swath of the island.  Estimates of the extent of planned logging range from 20 to over 50 percent of the island.

“The company is being elusive about its plans and doesn’t appear to have consulted adequately with the local communities,” said Professor Corey Bradshaw at the University of Adelaide.

“There’s been many conflicts between logging corporations and indigenous groups in Papua New Guinea,” said Dr Erik Meijaard, who studies logging in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The customary land owners on Woodlark Island are extremely nervous,” said Laurance.  “They rely on the forest and land for their livelihoods and fear they could lose control over large swaths of the island.”

“For nature conservation, a plan this ambitious sets off alarm bells,” said Professor Stuart Pimm from Duke University in the USA.  “This island is jam-packed with unique species, many of which have tiny geographic ranges and so are highly vulnerable to major disturbances.”

“The devil is in the details,” said Pimm.  “Careful, small-scale logging is one thing, but many Malaysian logging corporations are known for aggressive, large-scale logging.”

“This island is biologically and culturally unique, and it’s now in real danger,” said Laurance. “It’s vital that the world watch Woodlark Island very carefully.”

For further information:
Distinguished Professor William Laurance, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia
Email: bill.laurance@jcu.edu.au; Phone: 07-4038-1518 (+61-7-4038-1518 internationally)