THE LAND OF PAPUA
On the map, the Island ‘of New Guinea, which is the second’ largest island in the world, looks quite similar to a giant bird or, some would argue, to the extinct dinosaur. The Province of Papua forms the western part of New. Guinea, that is the ‘head’, ‘neck’, ‘back’, ‘breast’, and ‘abdomen’ of the ‘bird’ or, the ‘dinosaur’, It occupies an area of 421,981 sq. Km., making it Indonesia’s largest province.
The Province of Papua borders with Papua New Guinea at 141° east longitude, a border decided upon by the Netherlands and Britain on May 16, 1895. The border line is drawn straight from the north to the south of the island with the exception of the line breaking to the left somewhere two- thirds down the line, following the meandering of the Fly River until it again reaches the 1410 east longitude.
More than seventy five percent of the half island of New Guinea or around 41 million hectares is still covered by dense and often impenetrable rainforest, much of it untouched. by man.’ More than 8.6 million hectares of the forest area are protected forests, about 4.7 million hectares are production forests, and around 11.7 million hectares are converted forests. The remainder of the land is covered in mangrove forest, marshlands and savannah. There are three types of beaches in Papua, muddy beaches, sandy beaches, and coral beaches. Papua is where the deepest of valleys and the highest ot mountains of Indonesia can be found.
The topography of Papua is divided into three parts, the Bird’s Head area, the area between the central mountains and the northern beaches, and the area south of the Jayawijaya Highlands. The Bird’s Head area is characterized by a series of mountain ranges, which is the continuation of the Jayawijaya Highlands. In parts of the northern and eastern beaches, mountains protrude to the sea, ‘making very steep coral beaches. The lowland is found in Berau Bay, which is directly under the Bird’s Head area and is full of swamplands and streams originating from the Bird’s Head area.
In the area between the central mountains and the northern beaches are the Jayawijaya Highlands, the central lake – lands area, the Northern Highlands, and the lowlands of northern Papua. The Jayawijaya Highlands is a series of mountain ranges that sprawl from west to east with peaks that reach 5,000 meters permanently covered with snow. The highest peak of the central mountain range is the Jayawijaya Summit (5,500 meters) and the second and third is the Trikora Summit (5,160 meters) and the Yamin Summit (5;100 meters). From the Jayawijaya Highlands flow hundreds of rivers and streams. Rivers that flow east pass through the lake – lands and here they are joined together with the Idenburg River that originates in the east and makes up the very Wide Mamberamo River that runs to the. Pacific in the north. The Northern Highlands consists of a succession of lower mountain ranges and the lowland in northern Papua is a long strip at land, mostly covered in swamp. The largest lake in Papua is Lake Paniai, followed by Lake Ronbenbai and Lake Sentani, both in the vicinity of Jayapura, and Lake Anggigita near Manokwari The area south of the Jayawijaya Highlands is mainly vast lowland where rivers coming from the southern part of. the Jayawijaya Highlands runs through before spilling out into the Arafura Sea. Most of the lowland consists of extensive swamplands.
Flora and Fauna
The Province of Papua is home to a diverse and unique flora and fauna. Some of the flora of Papua is indigenous to the land and some originated in Asia, Australia, Polynesia, and South America. A very large part of Papua is covered by dense tropical forest. Approaching the top ot the mountains, the less dense the forests, and at over 2,700 meters above sea level sub alpines plants thrive.
Deep in the rainforest, particularly in the north of the Jayawiiaya Mountain Range and in the Bird’s Head area, resin trees (Agathis alba), which are of economic importance to the local people, are found. In the swamplands, plants that constitute the majority of the local people’s main earning – sago trees (Metroxylo spp) – are plentiful. Another plant of economic importance is Pandanus, which are easily found in the savannah. Mangrove trees thrive in muddy beaches, pine trees in coral beaches’, while coconut trees in the rest otthe beaches. There are also around 2,500 species of orchids are alive.
Experts believe that the Island of New Guinea separated from mainland Asia when many of the animals had not undergone the process of evolution. This explains the distinctive fauna found in Papua. It is also believed’ that at that time New Guinea was still united with Australia, which explains the existence of animals already extinct in mainland Asia but still found in Australia. Typical fauna of Papua includes marsupiais such as pouched squirrels and kangaroos and reptiles such as alligators, turtles and giant lizards. Apart from that, Papua also houses more than 600 kinds of more than 400 of which are indigenously Papuan such as the bird of paradise – which itself comprise about 100 kinds, casuarius, cockatoo, and mamburk (gonravictoria) that reproduces rapidly.
Being near the equator; the climate in Papua is tropical. At sea level the average temperature is 26° C, but due to its terrain, the climate ranges between 19-27°, the lowest being in Wamena and the highest in Biak. Generally for every 100-meter increase in altitude, the temperature decreases by 0.6° C. It is therefore logical that the mountain peaks that are more than 4,400 meters above sea level are permanently covered in.snow.
The climate in the highlands is usually warm and even hot during the day, but cool to very cold during the night, depending on the altitude. The relative humidity varies, but is usually high, that is between 60 percent and 89 percent. The dry and rainy seasons also vary between the valleys in the highlands. In Baliem Valley, the driest months are from May to June, while the wet and windy months are from September to November. Unlike in the valley, the dry season in the southern coastal area starts as early as July and continues to as late as October.
Precipitation all over Papua is generally high, reaching on average 2,000-3,000 millimeters annually. In certain areas in the mountain ranges, precipitation is considerably higher, often reaching more than 4,000 millimeters annually. The.exception is in the lowlands of southern Papua, where rainfall is significantly lower, an average of 1,500 millimeters annually, and during the dry season it rarely exceeds 50 millimeters per month.