PNG: Land Of The Unexpected
24 September 2008
They say that Papua New Guinea is the land of the unexpected and that’s exactly what researchers found in 1995.
Scientists surveyed all things jumping, growing and breathing in the Kikori Basin, an area known as a biodiversity “hotspot”, and one of the most important areas of forest and wetland life in the Asia-Pacific region. The area is also being logged right now, and has been for 20 years by Turama Forest Industry, a company of the Rimbunan Hijau (RH) group.
The 1995 research discovered new, unique species restricted only to the Kikori Basin that are not found anywhere else in the world. These included:
- 12 new fish species in Lake Kubutu;
- 28 new species of frog;
- at least 20 new orchids;
- two new palms; and
- a new bird – the New Guinea flightless rail.
In 1999, four new species of mammal were discovered on Mt Sisa, including a new species of marsupial rat that is only known to exist in this particular area.
The Kikori Basin is also home to around 60,000 forest people, who are subsistence farmers, hunters and gatherers. And while the people are small in height, they seem to live in a land of giants:
- world’s longest lizard – Salvador’s Monitor (Varanus salvadori);
- world’s largest tree frog (Litoria infrafrenata);
- world’s largest crocodile (Crocodylus porosus);
- world’s largest moth – Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules);
- world’s second-largest butterfly – Goliath Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera goliath);
- world’s largest pigeon – Southern Goura Pigeon or Guria (Goura scheepmakeri); and
- world’s tallest growing tropical tree – Klinki Pine (Araucaria hunsteinii).
Rare and endangered species found in the Kikori Basin and waterways include:
- Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo or Cuscus (Dendrolagus goodfellowi);
- Western Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii);
- Vulturine Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus);
- New Guinea Quoll, a marsupial cat (Dasyurus albopunctatus);
- New Guinea Harpy Eagle, the top land predator in New Guinea (Harpyopsis novaeguineae);
- Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus);
- Irrawaddy Dolphin(Orcaella brevirostris);
- Pig-Nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta); and
- Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin (Sousa chinensis).
Other incredible wildlife in Kikori includes:
- The flightless cassowary (pictured right), which spreads the seeds of the large-fruited tropical trees. These birds are tall enough to look you in the eye and can give a nasty, sometimes fatal, kick with their powerful feet.
- Pitohui, the world’s only know poisonous bird – it was recorded as having poison in their bodies exactly the same as poison darts frogs of South America.
- The Bird of Paradise is Papua New Guinea’s national bird. Scientists believe that Bird of Paradise fill the ecological niche that monkey’s occupy in other parts of the world. Of Papua New Guinea’s 38 Bird of Paradise species, 24 are found in the Kikori Basin.
- Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot (Micropsitta pusio), the world’s smallest parrot.
- Unusual occurrence of a mangrove species (Heritiera littoralis), growing 600m above sea level.
In addition to these forests being vital for our climate, they support this amazing diversity of wildlife. Yet, they continue to be turned into plywood, decking and furniture.
You can help stop the destruction of the amazing biodiversity of the Paradise Forests by pressuring the Australian Government to stop imports of illegal timber.