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New book teaches PNG children about ecology

The threat of invasive animals to the biodiversity of Lake Kutubu in Papua New Guinea is the main focus of a new children’s book produced by researchers from the University of Canberra’s Institute for Applied Ecology.

Monty and the Lake Kutubu Invasion tells the story of Chris the carp who finds his way to Lake Kutubu to the great concern of the many native fish species that live in the lake, which is located in the country’s Southern Highlands Province.

The book is the second in a series written by Carla Eisemberg, University of Canberra graduate and consultant on conservation and sustainability projects in the region.

The publication aims to teach children that it is detrimental to bring new species into an area from other countries due to their impact on native species.

It outlines how the introduction of predatory fish such as Nile Perch or Redfin to Lake Kutubu would put many of its unique species at risk of becoming extinct.

Environmental advisor Jasmyn Lynch supported the underlying messages of the book.

“The impact of invasive species cannot be overestimated; neither can the importance of raising community awareness. This book will help immensely by bringing the issue to the minds of the next generation, at an age when they are receptive to new ideas,” Dr Lynch said.

Eric Manasi, a member of the pig-nosed turtle conservation team in the Kikori region, said that “protecting Lake Kutubu is particularly important as the lake contains 12 unique fish species found nowhere else in the world.”

10,000 copies of the book have been published for distribution within local schools in the region, and they have been well received, especially by teachers who are using it now as learning material.

“Early explorers brought with them exotic plants and animals such as Elephant grass which is now such a problem,” said Hilbert Gaibu, a teacher from PNG’s Tanuga Primary in the Lake Kutubu region. “Mustard tree is another example. Locals do not know how to stop these species from spreading along the Kikori-Moro roadside.”

Sam Toro’oi Jack, of Era Kiti Primary School also said that “the book will really help children understand conservation. I enjoyed the story, the puzzles and games. They will open up a child’s mind. The book reminds all of us of the responsibility to conserve rare and threatened species, and will be good for environmental studies”.

A copy of the book is available online.

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