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Coronavirus threat to PNG’s animal rescue centre

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Port Moresby is the capital of Papua New Guinea and is home to its unique animal rescue centre that is now facing the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, and could be shut down. Papua New Guinea is the most populous nation in Melanesia and faces a potentially devastating wave of Covid-19 infections.

While border closures and domestic shutdowns have kept official infection numbers very low by global standards, there are fears the country’s fragile health system could quickly be overwhelmed by an unconstrained outbreak.

Spread over 30 lush green acres, the centre is home to more than 500 animals and birds that the park has spent years rescuing including those that have been injured, orphaned or trafficked from across the country, and protected and nurtured native species, including the endangered pig-nosed turtle, and the magnificent Pesquet’s Parrot.

The Pesquet’s Parrot is a rare and threatened species that is endemic to the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. This vulture-like parrot is the only one of its genus and the only member of its subfamily – Psittrichadinae. Exclusively selected figs are this frugivore’s main source of food, and it is thought the Pesquet’s Parrot has evolved to have a featherless face due to feeding on such a sticky fruit that would usually matte its feathers. Pesquet’s fiery red chest plumage and grey scalloped feathers are highly sought after and prized. Overhunting and ongoing habitat loss has led to an alarming decline in its population, which has marked this beautiful bird as vulnerable on IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species.

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