The 123,000 hectare park on the eastern tip of the island, covers one of the region's largest remaining tropical lowland and monsoon rainforests. It's now a protected sanctuary for dozens of unique, threatened bird species and a rich marine life.
Sawlani: The Ninos Konis Santana National Park is named after the national hero and former commander of FALANTIL, the armed forces of the independence movement who was born in Tutuala, a village within the borders of the national park which is now being managed by the government and local communities, with assistance from Birdlife International and the New South Wales' Department of Environment and Climate Change. Besides encompassing one of the largest remaining monsoon rainforests in the region, it also includes the Coral Triangle, a marine area with the greatest biodiversity of coral fish and reef fish in the world. And according to National Forest Campaign Coordinator for the Wilderness Society, Sean Cadman, the establishment of the national park is a significant development for East Timor's unique natural environment.
CADMAN: Look it's an absolutely fantastic outcome for East Timor. This is clearly one of the most important natural areas remaining on the island, and what's really significant about this is that we know that tropical deforestation and logging is one of the biggest causes and contributers to climate change, and also we know that protecting marine areas is the best way to ensure the long-term sustainability of fishing stocks for fishing. So this is a very, very significant achievement that's been made here.
Sawlani: Earlier in May, Greens Senator Bob Brown urged the Australian government to help East Timor establish its first national park, but instead we have seen the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change stepping in to help in the management of the park, why do you think Australia has to take that responsibility?
CADMAN: Australia I believe really does have an obligation if you like to put its money where its mouth is. Our Environment Minister recently came out and said that we were going to put money into avoiding deforestation and degradation associated with logging. This is exactly the kind of project where we should be helping out our neighbours to provide the money for forest protection and to provide ongoing support, both in terms of monitoring that those forests are remaining there and also providing the support in terms of on the ground work, rangers and infrastructure development. It's very encouraging to see that the New South Wales government through its Department of Environment and Climate is directly involved.
Sawlani: And this is also crucial for East Timor's rainsforests to maintain healthy levels of biodiversity?
CADMAN: Yes it's absolutely crucial, I mean biodiversity is in the most appalling threat at the moment and tragically we're actually seeing an acceleration of the loss of these sorts of areas through over-fishing and logging and clearing, particularly for palm oil development, which ironically is being put into provide in many cases so-called biofuels. And so to see an example here where things are actually going in the right direction, and we can see co-management, the development of great tourism opportunities, I mean those are fantastic reefs off the eastern tip of East Timor, and some of the most fabulous coral diving left in the world.
Sawlani: What benefits do you think this national park will bring to the people of East Timor and the economy?
CADMAN: Well I mean the often cited example is the example of Costa Rica in the Carribean, which made a very deliberate decision to protect its forests and to get a very large proportion of its country into national parks, because it saw clearly that the long-term future for economic prosperity was actually based on keeping those forests standing up with a clear eye to the global tourism market.