Subject: Timor hopes national park to become tourist attraction
August 4, 2008
Timor hopes national park to become tourist attraction
East Timor has inaugurated it's first ever national park in a move that will
protect and preserve 123,000 hectares of land and sea at eastern tip of the
But both the government and the communities living in the park also hope the
park will lead to increased income generation and open up the door to tourism
Presenter: Stephanie March Speakers: Xanana Gusmao, East Timor's Prime
Minister; Colin Trainor, conservation biologist Charles Darwin University;
Katheryn McDonald, first tourist to visit East Timor's national park
MARCH: East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was the first to crack open
the champagne in the nation's first ever national park. The dedication of this
park holds special significance for the former resistance fighter now - Prime
Minister. It's named after his former comrade, Nino Konis Santana who was born
in the parks mountains and fought for most of his life for East Timor to gain
independence from Indonesia.
GUSMAO: Very happy because we start something that it is an important process
of preservation of our forest.
MARCH: But the park is not like the most national parks you would find in
other countries. Instead of protecting the environment from human impact by
restricting access, the park is home to 10,000 residents. They will sign
contracts that will establish them as the park's community guardians. The
challenge then is for the government to support the communities to find
sustainable ways to improve the quality of the environment, but also maintain
their livelihoods through farming, and also tourism activities.
GUSMAO: We believe that our tourism industry should be different from Bali.
We cannot compete and we don't want to compete from other places. We will
explore the difference and our capability in terms of what we have, not only
preserving for the foreign eyes but also for our country, for future generation.
MARCH: The park is home to dozens of significant animals - including birds,
bats and marine life. Colin Trainor is a conservation biologist from Charles
Darwin University in Australia, who recently published a field guide to the
birds of East Timor.
He says the park is the largest remnant of tropical forest on Timor island.
TRAINOR: Because It's the most extensive area it has the best population on
the island for many of the endemic and globally restricted range an also
threatened birds. The park holds pops of two threatened birds, the yellow
crested cockatoo, and the Timor green pigeon. And as far as we know certainly
for the Timor green pigeon this is the best place in the world to see them and
the best populations.
He says there are a lot of reasons the national park could be a successful
TRAINOR: there is such a wide range of environments here from fantastic
snorkeling and diving, coastal areas, beaches for lazing around. It has these
mountains, absolutely fantastic for walking so potentially there is a really
wide range of activities and interest birds and other things.
Security concerns and prohibitive costs mean tourists in East Timor are few
and far between compared to neighboring destinations like Bali. It was only by
chance that one of those rare tourists, Kathryn McDonald from South Australia,
found herself at the park's inauguration.
MCDONALD: I jumped in a truck on the way back from Tutuala and they said
"oh big ceremony tomorrow" and I decided I was doing to go back to
Baucau, but I stayed in Los Palos and made friends with some women making bread
and they said "ceremony you have to go" so I came back this morning
and I have suddenly come up with the greatest title in the world: The first
tourist, in the first national park in East Timor.
And as the park's first ever tourist, Kathryn McDonald had says she was
surprised how different the its landscape is from the rest of the country.
MCDONALD: It's significantly different to the dry land coming up, it feels
like you have walked into Egypt in some of it with the sheep herders going
through, so the national park it is a different end of Timor, new style new
side, so I think it's pretty good especially compared to Dili where it is so dry
And she warns it probably won't be long before more adventurous travelers
follow in her footsteps.
MCDONALD: I think it is going to be overwhelmed all together too soon so I
think it's a beautiful place, but I think the chase of fast money might be a bit
damaging to the area, so if this park works and they can really control it and
you can keep Jaco as beautiful as it is, and Valusera, all of it, it will be
great it will be a huge boom.
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