Papua-(Indonesian New Guinea)


Papua_Island

Papua-Indonesian New Guinea

New Guinea (Indonesian: Papua; historically: Irian/ Irian Jaya) is the world’s second-largest island, after Greenland, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago. Geologically it is a part of the same tectonic plate as Australia. When world sea levels were low, the two shared shorelines (which now lie 100 to 140 metres below sea level), combining with lands now inundated into the tectonic continent of Sahul, also known as Greater Australia. The two landmasses became separated when the area now known as the Torres Strait flooded after the end of the last glacial period. Anthropologically, New Guinea is considered part of Melanesia. Politically, the western half of the island comprises two provinces of Indonesia: Papua and West Papua. The eastern half forms the mainland of the country of Papua New Guinea.

 The island is presently populated by very nearly a thousand different tribal groups and a near-equivalent number of separate languages, which makes New Guinea the most linguistically diverse area in the world. Ethnologue’s 14th edition lists 826 languages of Papua New Guinea and 257 languages of Irian Jaya (Indonesian Papua), total 1073 languages, with 12 languages overlapping. The great variety of the island’s indigenous populations are frequently assigned to one of two main ethnological divisions, based on archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence: the Papuan and Austronesian groups. They fall into one of two groups, the Papuan languages and the Austronesian languages. The separation was not merely linguistic; warfare among societies was a factor in the evolution of the men’s house: separate housing of groups of adult men, from the single-family houses of the women and children, for mutual protection against the other groups. Pig-based trade between the groups and pig-based feasts are a common theme with the other peoples of southeast Asia and Oceania. Most societies practice agriculture, supplemented by hunting and gathering. Large swathes of New Guinea are yet to be explored by scientists and anthropologists. The Indonesian province of West Papua is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups.

New Guinea has an immense biodiversity, containing between 5 and 10 percent of the total species on the planet. This percentage is about the same amount as that found in the United States or Australia. A high percentage of New Guinea’s species are endemic, and thousands are still unknown to science: probably well over 200,000 species of insect, between 11,000 to 20,000 plant species, and over 650 resident bird species. Most of these species are shared, at least in their origin, with the continent of Australia, which was until fairly recent geological times, part of the same landmass (see Australia-New Guinea for an overview). The island is so large that it is considered ‘nearly a continent’ in terms of its biological distinctiveness.

The island has an estimated 16,000 species of plant, 124 genera of which are endemic. Papua’s known forest fauna includes; marsupials (including possums, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, cuscuses); other mammals (including the endangered Long-beaked Echidna); bird species such as birds of paradise, cassowaries, parrots, and cockatoos; the world’s longest lizards (Papua monitor); and the world’s largest butterflies.

New Guinea has 284 species and six orders of mammals: monotremes, three orders of marsupials, rodents and bats; 195 of the mammal species (69%) are endemic. New Guinea has 578 species of breeding birds, of which 324 species are endemic. The island’s frogs are one of the most poorly known vertebrate groups, currently totalling 282 species, but this number is expected to double or even triple when all species have been documented. New Guinea has a rich diversity of coral life and 1,200 species of fish have been found. Also about 600 species of reef-building coral — the latter equal to 75 percent of the world’s known total. The entire coral area covers 18 million hectares off a peninsula in northwest New Guinea.

Major habitat feature is the vast southern and northern lowlands. Stretching for hundreds of kilometres, these include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna grasslands, and some of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the world. The southern lowlands are the site of Lorentz National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Biogeographically, New Guinea is part of Australasia rather than the Indomalayan realm, although New Guinea’s flora has many more affinities with Asia than its fauna, which is overwhelmingly Australian. Botanically, New Guinea considered part of Malesia, a floristic region that extends from the Malay Peninsula across Indonesia to New Guinea and the East Melanesian Islands. The flora of New Guinea is a mixture of many tropical rainforest species with origins in Asia, together with typically Australasian flora. Typical southern hemisphere flora include the conifers Podocarpus and the rainforest emergents Araucaria and Agathis, as well as tree ferns and several species of Eucalyptus.

The highest peaks on the island of New Guinea are:

  • Puncak Jaya, sometimes known by its former Dutch name Carstensz Pyramid, is a mist covered limestone mountain peak on the Indonesian side of the border. At 4,884 metres (16,024 ft), Puncak Jaya makes New Guinea the world’s fourth highest landmass.
  • Puncak Mandala, located in Papua, is the second highest peak on the island at 4,760 metres (15,617 ft).
  • Puncak Trikora, also in Papua, is 4,750 metres (15,584 ft).
  • Mount Wilhelm is the highest peak on the PNG side of the border at 4,509 metres (14,793 ft). Its granite peak is the highest point of the Bismarck Range.
  • Mount Giluwe 4,368 metres (14,331 ft) is the second highest summit in PNG. It is also the highest volcanic peak in Oceania.