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Papua New Guinea

The revitalisation of traditional management of the Admiralty cuscus

About the Implementing organization

Name: Pohowa, Tulu and Mondropolon Tribal Groups

Country: Papua New Guinea

Year of establishment: 1950

Type of organization: Indigenous group or organization


Within the Pacific over the last two decades there has been greater recognition of the pre-existing tools within indigenous communities for natural resource management. Periodic tambu (Tok Pisin: a prohibition) is an indigenous resource management tool often used across Papua New Guinea. On Manus Island terrestrial periodic tambu areas are characterised by a cycle of resource closure followed by instantaneous harvest. The major source of terrestrial protein in Manus Province continues to be the Admiralty cuscus, an endemic arboreal marsupial. Research by WCS supports the concept that periodic tambu areas may be a sustainable strategy for customary resource use of Admiralty cuscus. The benefits of the research include the promotion of local people’s value and significance of establishing and maintaining local tambu areas. Coupled with their local knowledge, locals now have an understanding of cuscus movements and home range, and the need to increase the area of tambu. Two new tambu areas have been established in Tulu 1 and Tulu 2 villages as a consequence of the research and the interest generated.

Nature Element


Type of Action

Protection / Restoration / Sustainable use / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Food security

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

WCS research has affirmed the viability of traditional tambu areas in the management and sustainability of cuscus hunting practices. The research also reinforces the tambu system (traditional no-take areas) as an important customary practice in species conservation. The Admiralty Cuscus is not only an important as a food source but is a species of cultural significance that locals use in traditional practices such as feasting, and bride price payments. Therefore, the tambu management also safeguards the social, cultural and economic values that local communities place on the Admiralty cuscus.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The revitalisation of tambu management not only safeguards targeted species such as Admiralty Cuscus but it also empowers the local community with the knowledge that they already have as tools to manage their environment sustainability.


Tambu systems are a widespread practice in most parts of Papua New Guinea and the success of tambu on Manus supports the concept that they can be incorporated into effective land and resource management. The scalability of the tambu system in forests can follow a similar blueprint as locally marine managed areas in the Pacific through a system of networking and bundling.


This work is replicable in other parts of Papua New Guinea as mentioned above, given the widespread practice of tambu systems. In most respects it can be seen as a terrestrial version of locally marine managed areas. The main advantage of this solution is that once the community can see the value of traditional management the process is entirely self-driven as the community already has the requisite traditional skills to manage tambu areas.

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