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Papua New Guinea

A Conservationist Grows in Kimbe


Learning the Ropes in Kimbe Bay

What's it like to get your start as a conservationist in Papua New Guinea's Kimbe Bay? Find out from the Conservancy's Annisah Sapul.

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When Annisah Sapul took an internship with the Conservancy’s Kimbe Bay program seven years ago, she couldn’t know that the temporary position would lead to a permanent role as the program’s community conservation specialist. Find out from Annisah what she learned through the internship, how spirits guide traditional conservation in Papua New Guinea and just what environmental protection is really about.  

Nature.org: How did you originally get involved with the Conservancy?

Annisah Sapul: I started with the Kimbe Bay program as an intern. The internship was new and it was challenging. I started with a male-dominated team and I wanted to take up the challenge, try a new experience.

Nature.org: How much did you know about conservation before you started?

Annisah Sapul: Conservation was part of growing up in our society. It was already a concept that we understood traditionally. After a clan leader died, we would close off fisheries for a time. Our people had beliefs that reefs and certain forests were where the spirits of the dead went, so we never caught or ate anything in those areas because we were afraid the spirits would eventually come back to make us sick. So, we were already practicing conservation in our minds. However, I didn't know much about capacity building, for instance, which was a big part of the internship.

Nature.org: What was your day-to-day routine like?

Annisah Sapul: My day-to-day routine as an intern was mostly training. I had just come out of university, but I was tasked with a lot of things that were new. I was also very involved with a survey that took stock of the local seabeds and the resources they contained. I was also really exposed to working with partners and to attending meetings and trainings.

Nature.org: How did the internship shape your views on conservation?

Annisah Sapul: The program helped me to see different angles for conservation and the environment. It helped me to see that conservation is not only about science but also a connection between people and the environment. So it was about the fish, it was about people, but it was also about putting these things together and finding a balance.

Nature.org: Did that new knowledge change your career?

Annisah Sapul: I think it helped me to see that I had other skills. I graduated from university with a degree in science but the program exposed me to other fields. If I hadn’t taken that internship, I’d probably be working with the department of fisheries. I had an opportunity to work with them, but then I wouldn't have been exposed to the other skillets I have. I'd probably be in an office and doing most of the paperwork.

Nature.org: So it sounds like the internship really helped mold you?

Annisah Sapul: It gave me a new perspective that conservation isn't just about science — it's about people also. It's about trying to manage people's behavior and attitudes, about having an impact on people's lives.

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