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Papua New Guinea to set up pilot sites for rhino beetle control

Updated: Feb 23

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Port Moresby-- The Papua New Guinea Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle

task force will set up pilot sites to test the best control measures against the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle, which has been aggressively attacking coconut trees in parts of Papua New Guinea.

The pilot sites are expected to start immediately, with the first mapping of the sites and the first activity already set up by the Quarantine Inspection Authority, according to a press release from the Pacific Community, or SPC, which will implement the program.

Dr. Trevor Jackson, principal scientist, said the task force's goal is to coordinate efforts to understand the distribution of the different biotypes of rhino beetle and improve management response to limit damage from the pest in Papua New Guinea.

“We’re going to monitor the initial pilot sites intensively to see which ideas work for those communities and which don’t work so well so we can make solid recommendations," Jackson said.

In 2021, SPC estimated that the growing threat of the rhino beetle infestation in the Pacific islands would cost the region $169 million a year by 2040 if the pest invasion is not curbed.


The rhino beetle has been wreaking havoc in many Pacific island nations, threatening to wipe out the coconut industry and causing losses to economies that rely on it and its oil, in addition to other palm species, for revenue.

The coconut industry drives Pacific economies, which supply 50 percent of the world’s copra trade. Papua New Guinea is the largest exporter of copra in the world.

SPC said the team has been meeting every year in PNG since 2020 to discuss progress on establishing the current distribution status of the rhino beetle and to determine the extent of the infestation in PNG.

The team has surveyed pest damage, particularly along the central gulf coastlines, and looked into potential biocontrol agents that could contain the coconut pest.

Mark Ero, PARC project manager, said Port Moresby has suffered a massive loss in coconut palms over the years, with coconuts now becoming expensive and being sourced outside the city.

“Our message for the people of PNG is that this is a new strain of the pest, and it’s quite invasive from what we’ve seen. It is very hard in a country like PNG to regulate the transport of plant materials and other goods, which is one of

the reasons why it has spread very quickly, so we need to work out a response that needs to be implemented countrywide. We do not want this situation to spread to other parts of PNG," Ero said.

The initiative is part of the Pacific Awareness and Response to the rhino beetle project funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

SPC will implement the project in partnership with Ag Research NZ and PNG partners National Agriculture, Quarantine Inspection Authority, Kokonas Indastri Koporesen and PNG Oil Palm Research Association, which make up the task force.


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