In 2003 Jean Thomas left her job in Melbourne Zoo and embarked on an adventure. She went to work at the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) to save the Tenkile from extinction and improve the livelihoods of the animals and local communities in the remotest areas of Papua New Guinea. Tenkiles, commonly known as the Scott’s tree kangaroos, are indigenous to Australia and Papua New Guinea. They are hunted by local communities for their meat. In order to reduce the hunt on the Tenkile and to safeguard their natural environment, Jean designed various training programmes, which have led to community engagement and mobilisation among 50 villages in the most remote areas of Papua New Guinea and the protection of 200,000 hectares of rainforest.
Jean Thomas’ life is dedicated to the protection of Tenkiles, commonly known as tree kangaroos. Originally from Australia, Jean worked in Melbourne Zoo, until she and her husband, Jim Thomas, embarked on an adventure in 2003. Their goal was, and still is, to save various Tenkile species from extinction. Therefore, they left everything behind to work at the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) to improve the livelihoods of the animals and local communities in the remotest areas of Papua New Guinea.
Vision and Approach
Tenkiles are indigenous to Australia and Papua New Guinea. They are hunted by local communities in Papua New Guinea for their meat. The ongoing rise of the human population in that area resulted in a higher demand for animal protein, resulting in a drop of the Tenkile population to dangerously low numbers. Jean knew that the only way for successful conservation implementation was to integrate local communities. Therefore, the TCA aimed to assist local communities to manage their natural resources sustainably whilst showing respect to their culture. Jean has designed, produced and managed various training programmes, which has led to community engagement and mobilisation among 50 villages and the protection of 200,000 hectares of rainforest.
“The Award has given us the confidence to pursue our dream even further and persist in the protection of Papua New Guinea’s rainforest at the national level.”Jean Thomas
Impact of the Future For Nature Award
- Thanks to the financial support, drama education programmes informing the Weimang village about the importance of conservation were implemented. This has helped provide more support for the organisation’s work, raise the level of understanding of what conservation is all about and empower communities to work towards changing their hunting habits.
- The initiation of support for local schools was realised. Jean now runs a school fee competition to help local communities pay for school fees and buy equipment for the local schools.
- The award also provided important administrative support providing training and employment opportunities during field research – distance sampling and camera trapping has shown that the Tenkile population has increased from 100 animals in 1998 to over 300 animals in 2013.
"Jean Thomas has shown exceptional dedication in making a long-term commitment to the conservation of two of the most threatened mammal species in Papua New Guinea. She is working in an extraordinary difficult place in which to achieve successful conservation results, but through working with local communities, empowering them, and seeing conservation as a long-term endeavour, she is seeing real results."Mr. Simon Stuart, International Selection Committee