Exxon's conservation booster

PNG LNG operator ExxonMobil has given K350,000 ($A163,107) worth of scholarships to support three postgraduate students for research seeking to protect a unique dolphin species that, in the Pacific Islands, are found only within Papua New Guinea’s Kikori Delta.
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Elizah Nagombi will start his Masters at James Cook University this month, while Honours recipients Wilma Mavera and Monica Kolkia will both start their program at The University of Papua New Guinea "early this year", the US super-major oiler said.

These scholarships were initiated under a JCU and UPNG-led collaborative program to research and conserve the dolphin species, Orcaella heinsohni.

The project also seeks to establish what other marine mammals occur in the Kikori Delta, and work with locals to develop a community-based management plan to enable long-term conservation of marine mammals in the Kikori region.

James Cook University researcher Dr Isabel Beasley said the Kikori Delta was the most remote region she had studied inshore dolphins at.

"Thankfully, ExxonMobil PNG has funded the project, which allows us to charter a live-aboard vessel to safely conduct surveys, and most importantly, engage numerous local PNG counterparts and students in the project," she said.

"The Kikori Delta is currently the only region in the Pacific Islands and West Papua where Orcaella heinsohni are found, so the population is considered a regional priority for research and conservation."

UPNG registrar Jennifer Popat said the scientific knowledge concerning the particular species of dolphins would remain incomplete without the support of ExxonMobil PNG for the Honours and Masters scholarships.

EMPNG managing director Andrew Barry said investing in these types of research programs was ExxonMobil's long-term approach to preserving PNG's "unique environment" for future generations.

"In addition to the important information gained on inshore dolphins, the partnership with JCU and UPNG is helping young Papua New Guineans to build research and development skills, which are important for the preservation of the unique biodiversity of this country," Barry said.


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