The Biodiversity in New Guinea

Kal Muller


SECTION TWO: Biodiversity of Timika/Freeport project area and the Lorentz Park


In mid-2001, the WWF held a biodiversity planning workshop in Jayapura in an attempt to establish priorities insofar as the most essential geographical areas for biodiversity research in Irian Jaya. It was a difficult task, with so many ‘blanks’ on the map, as well as a lack of systematic data bank for already existing information. The seminar recognized that in dealing with biodiversity, the island of New Guinea, and especially Irian Jaya, had large areas with very low sampling densities, leading to a very spacially scattered picture.


Elsewhere in this text, I have pointed out the difficulties to biological (and other) research in Irian Jaya since the province came under Indonesian control in 1963. And while among the participants of the seminar, Indonesian and foreign nationals there was plenty of expertise in specialized areas such as vegetation, frogs, birds, turtles, butterflies and so forth, no one had either a historical overview or much of an idea as to what had already been accomplished and published since biologists began working in the western half of the province in the 19th century. Experts knew their own field but there were many animal and plant groups such as crustacea, mollusks, lizards, snakes, fishes, most insects, bamboos, palms, pandanus, and many more, with no specialists to represent them.

To remedy this situation, it was suggested during the seminar to establish a central information point for biological data as well as one which would act to coordinate the essential paperwork between researchers and the permit bureaucracy. (Has anything been done about this ??? follow up with WWF Jayapura...) Even in PNG, relatively more open to research from an official point of view, it is difficult to obtain access to already published materials. Background information on New Guinea can now only be obtained in world-class libraries in Australia, Holland and the US. While this book makes an attempt at giving an overview on the island’s biodiversity, it is far from adequate except, hopefully, as an initial step.


Be that as it may, the WWF recognized 14 large eco-regions in Irian, many of which also cover portions of PNG. These are as follows:

1. Northern marine

2. Southern marine

3. Northern New Guinea peat and freshwater swamp forest

4. Southern New Guinea peat and freshwater swamp forest

5. West Irian lowland forest

6. Northern New Guinea lowland forest

7. Southern New Guinea lowland forest

8. Cenderawasih Bay lowland forest

9. Vogelkop montane rainforest

10. Maoke Range montane rainforest

11. Central Range montane rainforest

12. Maoke Range alpine meadows

13. Trans-fly savanna and grasslands

14. New Guinea mangroves


We have only a fairly clear idea as to the biodiversity in only one area which corresponds to several of the eco-regions listed above. This fairly well-studied area forms the basis of the second section of this book. It is hoped that in the not too distant future, we will have similar information on Bintuni Bay where biodiversity studies are now being conducted as part of BP’s Tannguh natural gas development work.


The project area of Freeport, along with the adjacent Lorentz National Park, represents an exception to the generally dismal state of recent biodiversity research in Irian Jaya since the Indonesian government replaced the Dutch administration in 1963. Security concerns, along with a degree of national pride, has made it difficult for foreign scientists attempting to work in the area. This has been especially true since the OPM kidnappings of a group of young Indonesian and foreign scientists in Mapenduma in 1996 by one of the rebel bands, this one led by Kelly Kwalik. This is not the place to discuss the ins and outs of Indonesian research policy in Irian Jaya. But we can see from the results of published information on biodiversity since 1963 that the province is sadly lacking books and even scientific papers in either Indonesian or English since 1963. The only exceptions to this are the work of Dr. Jerry Allen in freshwater fishes research and Tim Flannery’s work with mammals. The WWF has also made some valuable contributions, along with a recent series of RAPs by Conservation International. In spite of this, huge gaps remain in our knowledge of the flora and fauna in the western half of New Guinea.


Since the discovery of the Grasberg ore body, high in the island’s central mountains, Freeport Indonesia has embarked on an ambitious and well-financed program of environmental studies and continuous monitoring. This is especially true for some of the plant and animals groups which may become impacted by the tailings from the physical (non-chemical) concentration of the ore prior to shipping out of the province for refining in smelters.


And as part of the environmental impact assessment requirements for the Indonesian government, the company has commissioned several studies which covered the various zones of vegetation from the coast to the Alpine, along with many of the animal groups. Aside from this, there are on-going environmental monitoring programs which periodically check on the flora and fauna in permanent plots from the sea to the mine area. Reclamation studies, both in the tailings deposition area and the Carstensz Meadow (the mine site) also add to our knowledge of the area’s biodiversity. The company’s environmental program has also completed thorough surveys of some of the most neglected aspects of the island’s fauna: the crustaceans, the mollusks and the estuarine fishes. My own studies, also for Freeport, focuses on the natural resource utilization of the Kamoro, the lowlands ethnic group which lives partially in the company’s project area, They are settled along the Arafura Sea, with villages also found inland into the rain forest.


When all these studies are combined with the information available from the WWF studies of the Lorentz area, we have a better picture of the biodiversity of this area than any other in Irian Jaya. While some animal groups are missing (many types of insects) and some are only lightly covered (mammals: especially bats, amphibians), by and large we have an excellent - and ongoing - set of papers and publications about the area’s biodiversity.


I. Vegetation

As a part of the Amdal process of environmental impact studies, Freeport held a long and very expensive biodiversity survey which included specialized botanical experts. Out of the 12-volume series produced by Freeport as a result of this study, four are devoted to plant, and by far the fattest ones. There volume on the synusiae was summarized above, in the general section on New Guinea vegetation. The other three volumes cover the plants of the lowlands, the montane and the subalpine/alpine zones respectively.


Scientists working in New Guinea have defined lowlands, highlands and subalpine/alpine zones according to elevation. But these are not fixed in concrete, responding to local conditions as well as to the needs of specific studies. For the purposes of the study below, the lowlands are defined as going up to 650 meters, the montane zone from 650 to 3200 meters while the subalpine and alpine vegetation reaches from 3200 to 4585 meters. In analyzing the vegetation in various plots, the scientists assigned an ‘importance value’ to the various species, with a maximum of 300 for a monospecific stand covering the whole plot. In the sections below, we will only give the names and importance values of the most dominant species. While most of Latin and Greek-based scientific names have no meaning to the layman, they nevertheless are important. With time and a desire to learn, the names begin to make some sense. We hope that this will eventually happen with our readers. The study of vegetation is a fascinating one, but it requires learning some new vocabulary, along with the willingness to take time and observe the profuse flora in a systematic way.


The Lowlands

The large spread of land from the Arafura Sea to the beginnings of the steep mountainsides to the north can be divided into seven separate zones for the purpose of easier analysis.


1. Beaches.

These consist of coastal ridges and swales (linear swampy depressions) which cover 2768 ha. or one per cent of the Freeport project area. The same type of coastal or beach forest types are found in many other places of Indonesia, but Irian is the champion, with some 56 per cent of the total. On the beaches, along the flat sand, the plant community is named Pes-caprae for the dominant creeper, Ipomoea pes-caprae, of the same family as many useful plants such as the kangkung and sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas). Other noticeable beach creepers include Ipomoea gracilis, the spiny Spinifex littoreus and a parasite creeper, Cassytha filiformis which lays as a suffocating blanket on the host plants underneath. Just behind the relatively flat beaches, we have the Barringtonia Formation, in our case of the vegetation type called Casuarina-mixed beach forest community. The type name comes from the tree Casuarina equisetifolia, which dominates the medium forest community just in back of the beach. These trees look like pines (but they are not) due to their soft needle-like leaves. But they can not regenerate from the litter carpet of its own photosynthetic twigs, so it gives way to various broad-leaved trees which forms the mixed woodland ecosystem. Along with the casuarinas, the dominant species along the beach margin include the tall Barringtonia asatica trees, Hibiscus tiliaceous and Thespecia populnea (very similar to each other and both popularly called hibiscus trees), the most useful Cocos nucifera which any layman can recognize, Pandanus tectorius (also easy to spot), and Callophylum inophyllum. The adjacent inland forest includes most of the same species, along with Cycas rumphii (a fern-like cycad), Intsia bijuga and Intsia sumatrana (both locally called ironwood trees), Terminalia catappa (excellent nuts), along with Erythrina variegata and Morinda citrifolia. On inland beach ridges and flats the dominant species are Pterocarpus indicus, along with various species of Terminalia and Syzygium. Towards the watery edges of this assemblage, we have the Heritiera littoralis, also related to the adjacent mangrove community. At Efefeta (Pasir Hitam), the former site of a Kamoro village, the dominant species are Cocos nucifera (planted), Casuarina equisetifolia, Terminalia catappa (also planted) and Hibiscus tiliaceous (whose inner bark is very useful for making cordage).


2. Tidal swamps: mangroves and Nypa palm land

Mangroves, woody angiosperms, are a most unappreciated ecosystem but extremely valuable as a breeding ground for many fish species, including  commercially valuable ones. There are some 14 million hectares of mangroves in the world. Thanks to Irian, Indonesia is the world leader in mangrove spreads, equaled only by Brazil, at 2.5 million hectares, according to a 1994 FAO report. Irian’s 1,740, 000 hectares of mangroves dwarfs all other countries. PNG only can boast of 553,000 ha. and Australia has 1,162,000 ha. (Another survey, by Darsidi in 1984, pegged Indonesia’s total at 4.3 million hectares and Irian’s alone at 2.9 million ha. Much mangrove land has been lost to shrimp and fish ponds in Java, but not enough to make such a huge difference with the FAO figures.) Outside of Irian Jaya, especially in Java, the country’s mangrove areas are fast being converted to fisheries, agriculture, industrial use and for human settlements: well over a half million hectares so far. There is hardly any mangroves left in Java, with great consequences for the ecology as this ecosystem provides natural, protected hatcheries for fish and many commercially valuable marine life.


The Timika area lies just to the north of the epicenter of the world’s largest mangrove area, stretching from Bintuni Bay in the west to the east of Merauke into PNG, with the exception of the Bomberai Peninsula. The tidal swamps of the study cover 61,500 hectares, or 23 per cent of the total of the project area. The mangroves of Irian are the country’s best preserved, but had not been studied until Freeport’s various environmental programs. Up to these studies, it was maintained that southern PNG had the greatest diversity of mangroves in the world, but this title has now to be shared with southern Irian Jaya.


Two years previous to the 1997 Amdal survey, Freeport had already completed a mangrove study as part of its reclamation planning and implementation project. Here we combine the results of the two research surveys’ information. The 1995 mangrove survey conducted by Freeport used composite satellite imagery and aerial photos, backed by field ground-truthing by helicopter and boat. It was determined that mapping from a chopper was fine to distinguish between Avicennia/Sonneratia communities from Rhizophora and Bruguiera communities as the colors showed enough difference. But the technique was useless for differentiating with the Rhizophoracea family (the Rhizophora and the Bruguiera-dominated forests as these appear very similar from above. So it was by boat and a plethora of bothersome insects to get on with the job.


Mangroves are a very special ecosystem, having had to adapt to a silty and salt water environment way beyond the survival capacity of most plants. A specialized minority among several tree families have developed similar adaptations to survive through a process called convergent evolution. (This means that different organisms come up with similar features in response to similar environmental challenges.) The species in the mangroves are taxonomically well isolated from their terrestrial relatives. The abilities needed to survive in the tidal zone include exposed, aerial roots for gas exchange, various salt-exclusion mechanisms and, for some, vivipary of the seed embryo whereby it germinates while still attached to the parent tree.


The high flow of land-creating sediments accumulating in the estuaries is especially to the advantage of the mangrove trees when there are sea level rises, or mangroves have to retreat inland. But if the sediment input is excessive, such as in the case of the mine’s tailings, the trees can die due to root smothering. In normal circumstances, this would result in the replacement of mangroves by a ecosystem of freshwater floodplains. Mangrove trees are particularly vulnerable to excess sedimentation due to their aerial roots. The above ground roots are essential for the mangroves growing in low-oxygen soil and on a moving substrate. These types of roots allow the necessary oxygen intake. While serving the same purpose, the roots differ in their shapes according the tree species. Thus we have tall prop roots in the Rhizophora, pneumatophores in Avicennia and Sonneratia, knee roots for Bruguiera and Xylocarpus mekongensis, buttress roots for Ceriops and plant roots for Heretiera and Xylocarpus granatum.  


Mangroves are found only on sheltered shores between mean sea level and mean high water spring tide on tidal flats, estuaries, embayments and in the lee of offshore islands and some coral reefs. The mangrove shore is rarely exposed to open ocean: they develop best where abundant silt is brought down by rivers and where sand from the sea-bed is re-sorted and banked up by the combined action of waves, tides and currents. The most ideal mangrove shores occur where numerous meandering river channels form a network of quiet waterways confining the ebb and flow of the tide. It is in these situations that the accumulation of sediments is favored and it is here that transported materials settle at the slack tide. The lithology is recent fine alluvium (marine) or peat. Vegetation types are in PTFI-RPI 1995b - GET IT!!!).


Mangroves have only some 50 species world-wide, with a distinct Asian and Caribbean floras. In the project area, some 30 species are found, a remarkably high number. That is explained by the fact that the mangroves there is located right in the middle of the largest and most diverse stand in the world. The major component of mangroves come from only five families. Heading the list, the Rhizophoraceae holds the genus Rhizophora (8 species),  Bruguiera (6 species), Ceriops (2 species), and Kandelia (one species). The monogenetic family Avicenniaceae has only one genus, Avicienna, with 8 species. The Combretaceae family includes the genus Lumnitzera, with two mangrove species. The Sonneratiaceae family, with the genus Sonneratia, holds five mangrove species. At the inland edge of the mangroves we have the aberrant Nypa fructicans, very isolated from its family, the Palmae. And that’s about it. There are also 11 families with minor members of this ecosystem. The best adapted from all the above species, the Rhizophora are the only ones to have both well developed aerial roots and well developed vivipary. The genera Avicennia, Sonneratia and Xylocarpus have only some aerial roots. Only a degree of vivipary is shown by the genera Avicienna, Aegeciras, Pelliciera and Nypa. Ten plant families fall into the ‘mangrove associate’ category, none with aerial roots of vivipary. Epiphytic orchids grow just above the high water mark in the back of some of the mangrove communities.


Another way of looking at mangrove communities is based on their proximity to the sea and salt water tolerance. Seaward pioneers are Avicienna marina and Sonneratia alba. In areas inundated by all high tides, the most important species are Rhizophora apiculata, R. stylosa and R. mucronata, with the latter preferring more fresh water influence. In the next zone, inundated by all medium-high tides, we have Avicienna alba and Rhizophora mucronata as frequent species. Most mangrove species thrive in the areas inundated by normal high tides, the largest part of this ecosystem. Most common here are the various species of Rhizophora, Ceriops tagal (a noted pioneer up creeks), Xylocarpus granatum, Lumnitzera littorea and Exoecaria algallocha. Zones only inundated by spring tides are generally too dry for Rhizophora. Most common here are species of Bruguiera, Xylocarpus, Lumnitzera littoralis and Excoecaria agallocha. Where the inundations are only during exceptionally high tides, the predominant species is Bruguiera gymnorrhiza. Other species in this zone include Intsia bijuga, Nypa fructicans, Heritiera littoralis, Excoecaria agallocha, Rhizophora apiculata and Xylocarpus granatum, with the last two fairly rare.


The Ajkwa River area is covered by Bruguiera-dominated forest for 80 to 90 per cent of area, with smaller patches of Nypa and Avicennia/Sonneratia forests. It is possible that with greater sediment supply to the Ajkwa, the area of Nypa and Sonneratia/Avicennia will increase, while the area of Rhizophora-dominated forest will decrease. The roots of Rhizophora mangle can significantly reduce the velocity of tidal water, and provide a better sediment binding when capacity compared with a variety of seagrasses and algal mats. Mangrove roots reduce tidal velocities to promote deposition of sediment, then fine roots bind and stabilize the sediment.


Excessive sedimentation such as tailings can cause the death of mangrove species, especially Avicennia and Sonneratia, by interruption of root and soil gas exchange. In New Caledonia, large scale nickel mining and siltation in the mangroves has caused serious problems. The ability of mangrove species to cope with burial of several centimeters a year may vary between species as a function of root architecture. The pneumatophores of Avicennia and Sonneratia and the knee roots of Xylocarpus mekongensis may be able to extend upwards but these responses take time. However, mangrove roots could adjust to gradual burial. Nypa does not have aerial roots, but can grow vegetatively from an underground rhizome, giving it the ability to relocate to a higher level in conditions of rapid sedimentation. It is possible that the area of Nypa will increase at the expense of Bruguiera-Rhizophora mangrove forests. Bruguiera and Xylocarpus species have with aerial toots of 10 to 20 centimeters so anything over 20 centimeters of sediment will result in probable death by stifling. The higher root architecture of Rhizophora species does not mean that they can tolerate deeper burial. Respiration occurs through lenticels, and study of the root system of Rhizophora mangle has shown that the concentration of lenticels declines rapidly with height above the substrate. For this reason, the mortality of R. apiculata, evident in the Ajkwa estuary could be due to low levels of burial, but it could also be due to some unrelated factor, such as a pathogen.


Mangrove progress is naturally dependent on land accumulation, extending out to sea with additional deposits washed down from the mountains. Boreholes in the Purari River Basin, PNG indicate a deposition of 1700 meters of terrigenous sediment over the last 5 million years, creating a deposition plain between 30 and 60 km wide. Vertical accretion rates are about 0.34 mm/year and seaward propagation 60 to 120 cm/year. In the last 10,000 years of the Holocene, the maximum natural rates were on the order of 1.5 mm/year.


During the 1997 survey, seven mangrove stands were analyzed as to species. The closest one to the sea, just inland from the beach ridge, showed the following order of dominance: Rhizophora apiculata, Lumnitzera littoralis and Avicennia marina. For the combined importance value, the leader was Sonneratia alba, followed by Lumnitzera littoralis, Rhizophora. apiculata and Avicennia marina. In the second stand, one kilometer north of the cargo dock, the order of dominance was Rhizophora apiculata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Heritiera littoralis. For the combined importance values: Sonneratia alba, Rhizophora apiculata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Heretiera littoralis. Further inland, four kilometers from the cargo dock, the order of absolute dominance was Rhizophora apiculata, then Bruguiera gymnorrhiza. The importance value list went Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, R. apiculata, Camptostemon schultzii. A bit further, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza made up 90 per cent of the trees, with Camptostemon schultzii the rest. Further yet, it was Camptostemon schultzii 61 per cent and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza 39 per cent. The last site surveyed, at the Biodiversity Research Site number one, dominance was by Bruguiera gymnorrhiza at 69 per cent, followed by Camptostemon schultizii at 20 per cent, then Bruguiera cylindrica at nine per cent and Rhizophora apiculata at one per cent.


There are five distinct mangrove communities:

1. Avicennia/Sonneratia complex: seaward communities of the lowest elevation, consisting of four species: Avicennia marina, A. officinalis, A. eucalyptifolia and Sonneratia caseolaris. These colonize new mudbanks and inner bends (point bars) or rivers.

2. Rhizophora-dominated community: Rhizophora stylosa-dominated forest, mainly south of the main Aiwa estuary and outer bends of rivers. R. apiculata, R. mucronata and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza may also occur. The Minajerwi estuary seems to have more of this community than the Aikwa.

3. Bruguiera- forest: Consists of B. cylindrica, B. parviflora, Rhizophora apiculata, R. mucronata and Xylocarpus mekongensis of slightly higher elevations, mainly north of the main Aijkwa estuary and on inner bends of rivers. This community has the greatest area of mangrove forest in the Aijkwa estuary.

4. Nypa fructicans-dominated forest: on accreting banks in northern mangrove area.

5. Landward Mixed Mangrove Forest: Diverse mangrove community on freshwater margin with Rhizophora apiculata, Heritiera littoralis, Xylocarpus granatum, Pandanus spp. and Nypa fructicans.



3. The Meander Belt

The land in this area is continuously being formed by sedimentation and changing river courses. The area covers 3567 hectares, or 1.4 per cent of the project area. Transects were made around the Maurujaya Reclamation Research Center, in the meander belt of the old Ajkwa River. The vegetation in seven transects showed that in the newer and wetter areas, the grass Phragmites karka dominated. This is one tough grass, able to survive in some of the most nutrient-poor soils. Other vegetation with dominant features in the waterlogged communities include Polypodium sp. and Pteridium auriculum. Starting with transect five, as the sites became drier, the plants became more varied, with Phragmites karka still dominating, followed by
Equisteum sp. and Pipturus ledermanii. In addition to the grasses, here we also begin to see pioneer trees, including various species of Gochidion, Ficus and Macranga. The grass Spathoglottis also joins the community at this stage. At the seventh transect, we have a very marked dominance by Xyris sp. but after the site was drained, this dominance was replaced by a mixed heartland community composed mainly of grasses and ferns.


4. Peat Swamps

Peat swamps are the next ecosystem surveyed and analyzed. Peats are defined as having 65 per cent or more organic matter. They are located in a waterlogged environment of partially decomposed organic soils, often interbedded with mineral layers. Some of these peat soils can reach depths of 10 meters in the project area. The vegetation here was grouped into six distinct communities.


In the center of the swamp, the most important angiosperm trees are Hopea novoguinensis, Terminalia coplandi and, to a lesser extent, Alstonia scholaris. There are some stands of Pandanus tectorius but more even important for Papuans, here we find the first extensive groups of sago trees, Metroxylon sagu. The sago trees dominate the next community, woodland and forest. Here we also find relative abundance in a several trees important to local communities: Campnosperma sp., Intsia sp., Palaquium sp,. Myristica sp., and Octomeles sumatrana. We also find unidentified species of Pandanus here, with this tree dominating the next zone, called peat swamp with pandan substrate. Sago trees are still important here. The next community, mixed species peat swamp forest, was surveyed at the end of the former cross-levee and the Minajerwi River, at Biodiversity Site #3. Vatica papuana dominated here, followed by Stemonurus sp., Linciera sp., Terminalia complanata, unidentified palms, Myristica sp., and the ironwood tree, Intsia bijuga. In the peat swamp behind a high river bank, near the Biodiversity Research Site #4, we find a closed vegetation community with unidentified species of Pimelodendron, Myristica, Syzygium and Vatica as the most dominant. The last peat community surveyed was  a riverbank forest on a high and seldom flooded river bank. The main trees here are species of Pommetia, Myristica, Celtis, Syzygium, Canarium, Artocarpus, followed by Vatica papuana, Octomeles sumatrana, Homonoia sp. and Cryptocarya sp.


5. Alluvial fans and valleys: the tropical rain forest

This system covers 56,120 hectares of the project area, just over 21 per cent of the total. All but 715 hectares are in the alluvial fans. Four sites were surveyed in the alluvial valleys, on new land. Two were on a gravel and boulder island in a river (Aimoca???) where the pioneer Casuarina equisetifolia dominated in no uncertain terms. Other frequent trees here include Liniciera sp. Artocarpus sp. Campnosperma montana and unidentified Pandanus. In the next two sites, on floodplain or river valley type site, we have mature communities with the casuarina trees absent. The main species here are Octomeles sumatrana, Blumeodendron papuanum, Pommetia pinnata and Dacroides sp.


Life gets more complicated in the alluvial fans. Here we have the most complex and species-rich terrestrial vegetation on earth. This is the tropical rain forest at its most complex, with so many kinds of plants that no experts knows them all. While it may be commonly called rain forest, the ground in this area is much drier, the reason that botanists call it lowland evergreen forest. The soil is relatively deep here and only very occasional brief flooding occurs. The tall, dense forest reaches to at least 40 meters in height and its most relevant characteristic is the large number of species per any unit of area. Gregarious dominant species are most uncommon. Many different families are represented. The forest can be divided into three horizontal layers. The tallest trees include Pommetia pinnata and Alstonia scholaris, along with several species of Ficus and Terminalia. The typical second story includes the genera Garcinia, Diospyros, Myristica, Maniltoa and Microcos. At the lowest layer, there are shrub-palms, often of the genus Licula with fan-shaped leaves. Tall gingers and Maranthaceae can form a dense layer. Pandans, tree ferns and bamboos are scarce.


There is a fair amount of variation in the species of trees according to the location of sites surveyed. The stands studied include forest near the LIP, between the two bridges, just east of the northern part of the East Levee, a stream forest just south of the Aijkwa bridge, a plot around a large strangling fig tree along the access road to Kali Kopi and another plot in this same area. In most of the plots, the dominant species was found to be Pommetia pinnata, often follows by Syzygium with Myristica a distant third. Where the large strangler fig was the focal point of the survey, this species, Ficus benjamina was also the dominant species. But the term dominant must be taken with much caution in the rain forest, given the plethora of other species present.


A riverbed location just south of the Aijkwa bride showed the dominance by the usual pioneer, Casuarina equisetifolia. The older flood plain forest next to the Otomona River near Mile 38 again showed variety, with Dysoxylum sp., Paraserianthes falcataria and Anthocephalus cadamba as the most important dominants. In the natural secondary forest opposite Mile 38, the dominance was first by Macaranga sp., followed by Canarium sp. and Ficus sp. Here we see the appearance of the relatively important Diospyros maritima, found in this position all the way to the steep mountainsides at Mile 50. The last area studied in this lowland zone, the ecotone (transition area between two ecosystems) forest, reach from the alluvial areas to the heath forest beyond. The zone shows vegetation characteristics from both the adjacent alluvial and the heath forest of the dissected terraces. The major tree components of the vegetation are Alstonia sp., Calophyllum costatum, Syzygium polyantha and Endospermum moluccanum. Just as in the next lower area, Diospyros maritima also appears constantly if not in a dominant position.


6. Dissected terraces: under the mountain wall

The last system studied in the lowlands, the dissected terraces, reach to the steep mountainsides beginning at around 600/650 meters’ elevation, where Freeport has its Mile 50 storage area. The ecosystem is known as heath forest or karangas and covers 28,659 hectares, 11 per cent of the company’s project area. Heath type vegetation, found also at high elevations, is characterized by a poor nutrient base, on soils derived from siliceous parent material: deficient in bases, acidic, lacking buffering capacity and commonly of coarse texture. The carnivorous Nepenthes plants (Venus fly-traps) make up the lack of minerals by trapping and digesting insects. Myrmecophytes are abundant, with ants supplying the nutrients in short supply.


The forest is usually of a fairly bright, reddish-brown hue, brighter than the lower dipterocarp rain forest with its higher and more irregular trees. Also in contrast to the lowland evergreen rain forest, large-girth trees rare, buttress roots smaller and stilt roots more common. There are also more trees with small leaves than in the rain forest, with many leaves distinctly sclerophyllous (thick and leathery) generally attributed to the shortage of nitrogen and phosphorous. The trees with this type of leaves in heath forests include several genera originating from Australia. Deciduous trees are generally absent. Streams draining heath forests appear tea colored by transmitted light (Kali Kopi) and opaque black by reflected light, due to organic colloids (small particles with high surface area per volume) in the acidic water with a pH of 5.5 or less and low oxygen content.


The more dominant species in this heath forest are Dacrydium sp., Ternstroemia sp., Syzygium polyantha and Sloanea archboldiana. There are also unidentified palms and various species of pandanus reappear, but not in the profusion found below the rain forest.


The Montane Zone

The vegetation in this zone reaches from 650 to 3200 meters and spreads over 38,376 hectares, 14.5 per cent of the project area. The lithology is metamorphic and sedimentary, with low subsoil saturation values. The plant life is analyzed in three sub-zones. The lower montane zone, from 650 to 1500 meters, has an average temperature of 22.22ºC. The mid-montane zone, from 1500 to 2800 meters, averages 15.49ºC. The town of Tembagapura, at 1871 meters and the mill at 2624 meters, both lie in this sub-zone. The upper montane zone rises from 2800 to 3200 meters, a short distance below the Carstensz Meadow. The relative humidity is quite constant throughout: 89 per cent at Mile 50, 92 per cent at Tembagapura, to 91.5 per cent at the mill. The divisions of lower, mid and upper montane elevations vary from one mountain site to another in New Guinea.


1. Lower montane forest

The mixed evergreen forest on the foothills and lower slopes below 1000 meters is similar to the alluvial lowland forests but slightly smaller in stature, large diameter trunks and extensive buttress roots less common. The herb layer is somewhat denser but still patchy. There are also less woody lianas, rattans, palms and climbers of all sorts. Some tall palms emerge above the canopy but they are few. More common here are tree ferns and scrambling bamboos, especially on ridges. But the overall richness and mixture of species is similar to that found in the rain forest. As this zone is considerably drier than the mid-montane, there are far less ferns and mosses. Pandanus is found here in the wetter areas, but never as a regular component of the forest, as it does higher, often in association with Nothofagus.


Two stands above Mile 50 showed no real dominance by any species. The more common ones were of the genera Elaeocarpus, Tristania and Lithocarpus along with Syzygium anomala, Syzygium lauterbachianum and Hopea papuana. In the same area, on the upper slopes of the Otomona River, the more common trees were Anisoptera thurifera and Castanopsis acuminatissima. At a disturbed site, located between Km. 71 and 72 on the Freeport road, there was quite a fair number of Anthocephalus cadamba, and Ficus, along with casuarinas and pandans.


As one moves higher in elevation, the humidity increases, with more fog, rain and mist. Here the forest becomes richer in epiphytes, some of them mosses, some ferns. There is a decrease in species richness. The oak and the laurel families become prominent. Casuarina papuana stands out on ultrabasic rocks substrates and occasionally in limestone-based forests, but the species has a wide ecological range and does not have to restrict itself to any particular type of soil. Here we have the ‘southern oak’ forest communities, with an important role played by the genera Castanopsis and Lithocarpus of the Fagaceae family. (The Nothofagus genera of the same family are found somewhat higher.)


2. Mid-montane forest: Nothofagus territory

This ecosystem ranges from 1500 to 2800 meters, the land is characterized by long slopes and ridges leading up to the summits of the central mountains. Clouds start meeting the mountain slopes around the zone’s lower boundary, at 1500 meters, marking the transition to the mossy, mid-montane forest. The upper boundary is less defined, but the dominant Nothofagus tends to end around there. Lianas are less common than in the lowlands, with only thin woody ones present. The climbing rattans and other palms become rarer with elevation until they become absent at about 2200 meters. However, at the forest edges, the thin-stemmed climbing Nastus bamboo forms dense tangles, with a scrambling Rubus often covering the ground and shrubs. Climbing plants include the pandan genus Freycineta, along with the genera Gesneriaceae and Lycopodium from other families. There are also climbing ferns and orchids are common in tree crowns, low on the trunks and on the ground. Stilt-rooted palms, often quite tall and reaching into the canopy, can be found either alone or in groups. These include species with oily seeds rich in outer layers of carotene and are highly valued as food by Papuans.


It is the altitude and cloud-cover based climate which determines the vegetation in this zone. Where the clouds and fog are the most frequent, we have the cloud or mossy forest, characterized by Nothofagus, and to a lesser extent by Phyllocladus and Astronia on ridges down to 900 meters, although these usually occur higher up. Nothofagus reaches its glory between 1500 and 2600 meters. Castanopsis and Lithocarpus are common in the lower montane zone but less dominant in this mid-montane forest. With increasing altitude, the mid-montane genera of conifers Myrtacea and Elaeocarpacea become increasingly common.


The coniferous forests are found in may places above 2400 meters, with the genera Podocarpus, Dacrycarpus, Librocedrus, Papuacedrus, Phyllocladus and Araucaria cunninghamii which dominates the canopy and emergent tree layers. Among the emergent trees, Librocedrus papuanus is easily recognized from a distance by its rather open crown with horizontal branches hung with streaks of ‘beard moss’ (the lichen Usnea); This tree has a wide ecological tolerance and its bark is used by Papuan home roofing. 


In the Nothofagus-dominated tall, closed forest, two stands were surveyed, both in Hidden Valley. The dominance was unquestionably by Nothofagus pullei, followed by Symplocos conchinchinensis and various species of Pandanus. In the mixed species medium-closed forest above Tembagapura, the most dominant species is Elaeocarpus nibigenus, followed by Pittosporum sp. At Ridge Camp, the dominant species by far is Prunus dolichobotrys, followed way behind by Podocarpus pilgeri. In the maturing seral medium forest and closed forest above the Protestant church in Tembagapura, a single species stood out in dominance: Timonius nites, while at another stand, the leader was Homalanthus nervosus, followed by Timonius nitens, Symplocos cochinchinensis and Cyathea fern trees. In a young, low forest on a heavily disturbed site above Mile 67, the vegetation showed Homalanthus nervosus, Vitex pinnata and Cyathea tree ferns.


3. Upper montane forest

At the military post by the Freeport road at 2600 meters, we find low to medium height forest dominated by Libocedrus papuana and Dacrycarpus cintus. This upper montane forest is much poorer in species than the lower ones. The canopy here reaches only to 12 - 18 meters. The leaves tend to be smaller and the trunks thinner. Aside from the two species mentioned above, we have a dominant in Papuacedrus papuana. Other kinds of trees include Suarauia trugal, Symplocos cochinchinensis, Dacrycarpus imbricatus and Cyathea tree ferns. High rainfall in this zone, over six meters and distributed throughout the year, is ample for plant growth. Fogs are frequent and when clouds blow through the foliage, nutrients may be ‘fog-stripped’ leaching them out unless the plants have protective impermeable cuticles.


Subalpine and Alpine vegetation

This zone, from 3200 to 4585 meters (the snow line), is capped in the Freeport area by a huge Miocene limestone block, with Puncak Jaya at its tip. This massive block is set off by 1000-meter high cliffs in the east, south and north but slopes gradually to the level of the range crest to the west. The outcrop measures some 30 kilometers on its east-west axis and five kilometers north-south. Fast shrinking ice caps and glaciers are still found to the east of the block. Outer synclines form the crests of the highest peaks while a central anticline splits the basin into two west-facing valleys: the Yellow and the Meren. To the south, a 150 meter-wide gorge cuts from the Meren through the northern cliff face, the New Zealand Pass, giving access to the valleys on the far side.


1. The subalpine zone

As defined for the purposes of the Freeport study, this zone ranges from 3200 to 4170 meters. This is divided into a lower and higher zone. The lower subalpine limit of 3200 meters is the upper limit of montane vegetation while the upper end of the lower altitude range, 3650 meters, marks the floor of the Carstensz Meadow where the mining activities are taking place. The dividing line between the lower and upper zones, at 4170 meters, indicates the tree line.


The vegetation of the subalpine zone consists of forests which includes lower, upper and treeline scrub along with scrublands. The scrub grasslands include tree fern and grassland tussocks. Open, rocky slopes host lichen field and boulder communities. We also have crustose lichen communities on rock surfaces. The mire areas are characterized by bogs, ferns and grasslands. In many environments, the common grass Deschampsia klossi forms very obvious large tussocks on drained peaty soils but this grass is limited to scattered tufts on young moraines or saturated bogs.


The two main areas surveyed in the lower subalpine zone were the Carstensz Meadow and the rolling Kemabu Plateau, extends north from the Jaya Massif some 25 kilometers, with altitudes from 3800 down the 3400 meters. In the lower subalpine forests the gymnosperms grow to 15 meters. The species Rapanea, Dacrycarpus compactus and Papuacedrus papuana tend to dominate here. The main types of pants in the area are trees, shrubs, grasses, other monocots, epiphytes along with ferns and their allies.


The numbers with the plant names correspond to their density as expressed in individuals of the species per hectare. Plant collections aimed at completeness only above the tree line, pegged at 4170 meters in the area. (Check!!! dominance scale???)


The Kamabu Plateau is formed by ridges of glacial debris up to 200 meters high which were pushed into the plateau for some eight kilometers. This substrate carries a low forest of conifers and prickly Coprosoma bushes. The mini-valleys are dotted with tree ferns among the grasses. Humans disturb pairs of Snow Quail which scramble up from the grass tussocks. There are wide swamps of pineapple grass, hummocks and sedges. The Kemabu River, some 12 meters wide and one meter deep runs north to the Tariku-Mamberamo drainage. Good trekkers can reach Beoga, the Damal center, in two days. Trade and hunting trails cut the plateau, with the trade on an east-west axis. 


The survey site showed the following scale of importance: Rapanea sp. 4, Dacrycarpus compactus 5, Papuacedrus papuana 6. These grow together with the large, spiny Saurauia sp. 6. Rapanea forms the bulk of the lower tall scrub layer, while Rhododendron culminicolum (?), Drymys piperita (2), Schleffera monticola (4) and Symplocus cochinchinensis are also common. These grow above a tangle of Coprosma brassii (5). The low shrub layer includes species such as Trochocarpa nubicola (3), Styphelia suaveolens (3) and various Rhododendron species especially R. oreites.The shrub vegetation includes Rubus diclinis (5) and in the trees Rhododendron culminicolum (7). In the ferns, we have Cyathea cf. pseudo-muelleri (5) and Gleichenia bolanica (5). Among the epiphytes, there are scattered anthouse plants, Myrmecodia cf lamii.


The Carstensz Meadow, the former site of the Ertzberg ore body and the location of the current Grasberg open-pit mine, received the lion’s share of attention in the lower subalpine zone. The valley floor is a grassland surrounded by towering cliffs, except for a narrow opening to the south. This breach opens into a sheer sided cirque-like hollow some 1200 meters deep, bottoming out at 2400 meters. The mill refining the ores is located hard by the mountain wall leading up to the mine site. From there the south wall of the Jaya Massif rises to 4500 meters. A spectacular site, if it is not hidden by fog or clouds.


On or near the floor of the meadow, seven plots were surveyed, ranging from 3605 to 3685 meters. The vegetation is composed of shrubs, sedges, ferns, grasses and other monocots, dicot herbs, epiphytes and terrestrial mosses, hepatics and lichens. The last named plant are not well known but hold great importance as the initial colonizers of rock surfaces. The moist climate favors the near-complete lichen cover, even on cliffs, within a few years of initial exposure. The colonizers are mostly grey, white and custose lichens, with several small thallose ones also present.


At the lower or southern end of the Carstensz, at 3606 meters, Asterlia papuana formed the main cover of the subalpine bog. This grass forms hummocks up to 30 cm. thick, surrounded by tuft sedges, mats of mosses and hepatics and the creeping Lycopodium along with dwarfed shrubs. There are a few scattered larger bushes, Coprosma brassii, but except for the Astelia and the thick hepatic cushions, all other plants are low, ground-huggers. The lichen cover is quite common. The community grew extensively on flat areas of granite gravel but sometimes also occupied gentle slopes with high runoff. The frequent rains are quickly drained in these soils of peat or peaty gravel.


At the highest point sampled in the meadow, a granite-gravel fan on the western side at 3685 meters, the plant community was an almost continuos layer of thallose brittle white lichen, Stereocaulon pseudomassartiamun, forming a field about 5 cm. deep. Slightly below, at 3670 meters, among limestone boulders, the most frequent plant was the shrub Tetramolopium distichum followed by the monocots Carex brachyathera and Schoenus maschalimus, along with a dicot herb, Euphrasia lamii. At the opposite, east side of the meadow, around the cliff base, the vegetation consisted of tuft grasses, especially Cheilanthes papuana, Danthonia vestia and Bromus insignis, all in dense patches some 15 cm. high. The shrub Tetramolopium prostratum forms soft-leafed clumps among the scrambling dicot herb, Aceaena anerinifolia. The limestone wall of the cliff is covered with the dicot herbs, Pilea spp. Swiftlet guano was in evidence in the driest areas’ soil, a boon to plants. Unidentified bright orange custose lichens are present on the mineral outbreaks and the sandy floor. Other areas in the subalpine meadow were covered with low or medium scrub vegetation. Various species of Rhododendron, Styphelia suaveolens and Coprosma brassi all shrubs, were some of the more important plants here. In the grassy places there are abundant bunches of Deschampia klossii and Poa spp., inersperced with the shrub Styphelia suavolens, and the fern tree Cyathea pseudo-mulleri


The Ertzberg marks the initial mine site. This was a 200-meter high outcrop and very noticeable due to its contrast with the rest of the lighter-colored cliffs. Not it’s a narrow but deep hole in the ground, about 1.5 km2. with subalpine forest taking root in the topmost 40 cm. of soil. This community is dominated by Darcrycarpus compactus, Rapanea sp., Rhododendron culiminicolum and Drimys piperita.


In the upper subalpine zone, such as at Dayak Meadow at 3807 meters, the tree Dacrycarpus compactus persists as the straight-boled emergent, continuing to 3900 meters. At the lower boundary of this zone, 3650 meters, the trees Dacrycarpus compactus, Rapanea sp. and Dirmys piperita are all more common than in the lower subalpine forest. At the lower end of this zone, the canopy reaches 10 meters while at 3900 meters it is reduced to 6 - 8 meters. At Dayak Meadow, Darcycarpus compactus, Drimys piperita, Rapanea sp., and Symplocos chochinchinensis dominate in that order among the trees. For shrubs, it’s rhododendrons, then Coprosma brassii. The rest of the vegetation includes ferns, grasses and other monocots, dicot herbs, epiphytes and terrestrial hepatics, lichens and mosses.


As we move higher, we lose the Dacrycarpus trees and the numbers of Rhododendron culminoculum are much reduced. This also holds for the umbrella-like bunches of Schefflera foliage on their distinctive thin trunks. The frequency of the silvery tomentose Senecio carstenszienis increases as this tree-scrub forms large clumps among the Rapanea sp. at 3930 meters, along with the patchycualous Olearia velutina. Further up, Styphelia suaveolens increases in frequency. Here out intrepid botanists found the going tough, writing ‘the combination of treacherous root mats within the labyrinth of knife edged brittle limestone grikes, all overgrown by a 4 meter tall tangle of Coprosma brassii with formidable rows of rigid, pungent leaves makes travel unpleasant...’. At the Grasberg site, in 1976, Hope already found that the this tangle of Coprosma brassii was absent from the granitic soil, with an increasingly tall  scrubland of Rapanea, Drimys and Rhododendron correoides being replaced by shrub-rich grasslands starting at about 4,050 meters.


At the lower (west) end of the Meren Valley trail, 3930 meters, the climax vegetation included Drimys piperita, Rapanea sp., Coprosma brassii and Oleana velutina. As for the trees, the order of the leading species are Crymys and Rapanea, for shrubs it’s Coprosma and Oleana. The grass Deschampia klossii is frequent and there are also other grasses, ferns and their allies, other monocots, dicot herbs, epiphytes and terrestrial mosses, hepatics and lichens. At roughly the same location, the short-grass bog holds many herbs, forming a very extensive community and occupying flat but relatively well-drained sites. The micro-relief consists of hummocks and water-filled hollows, on deep, acid peats. The slight rises are occupied by the grasses Danthonia vestita and Deschampia klossii, interspersed with cushion grasses such as Monostachya oreoboloides and Poa spp. Many herbs also occur on the rises, especially Platago aundensis. Sedges nestle in the hollows.


Alpine Zone

Alpine vegetation, all above the tall shrub limit of 4170 meters, includes grasslands, tussock grasslands. There are also heaths, as well as wet and dry tundras. 


Tropical alpine vegetation is quite different from that found in temperate climates. There, a brief but warm summer allows the plants a brief period of growth free of the danger of frost. This is followed by a long resting period through the winter. In New Guinea there is no resting or freedom from frost, except for the plants under forest cover. The climate is a most harsh one on alpine plants. The same vegetation tends to be higher on east facing slopes which receive more sunshine than those looking west. There are also more species on these east facing slopes. While morning might be clear, soon drizzles start, lasting all afternoon and turning to sleet or wet snow in the early evening as temperatures fall. High levels of radiation, incoming by day and outgoing at night, contribute to the harshness of the climate for plants. But here the cloudiness helps, as compared with African and Andean alpine environments. But the sunlight might often be inadequate for photosynthesis, barely enough for respiration and not enough for growth, resulting in stunted plants.


The botanists who surveyed the vegetation in the alpine area just outside of Freeport’s contract of work concession had a basis for comparison. Earlier studies of this type of vegetation had been conducted on Mt. Wilhelm in PNG. There were similarities as well as differences due to varying conditions in the two zones. Whereas the base rock at Mt. Wilhelm is grandiorite, at the Jaya Massif it is limestone. Both areas showed mineral as well as humus soils. On both mountains, the soils are relatively poor in nutrients, especially phosphorus, but the Jaya area is richer in exchangeable bases. While the study area soils generally held higher organic contents, the parent rock appeared to have little effect on the structure of the vegetation.  The mineral soils formed from limestone gravel or silts, derived from glacial action, are basic. The pH of the groundwater fluctuates from 9.5 to 10.5. In both areas, the nutrient base as extremely variable, even over short distances. Mt. Wilhelm’s soils show very low fertility, especially in nitrogen. A tall scrubland was described in the Freeport study, ranging between 3900 and 4170 meters. The fact that this type of vegetation does not occur on Mt. Wilhelm indicates either more suitable soils or milder climate.


Bare limestone occupies a large part of the Jaya Massif study area. This limestone has been extremely weathered in many locations and results in knife-edge lapiez with spaces occupied by thin pockets of alpine humus soil. These are often suspended above treacherous voids. The microrelief on the limestones greatly assists plant colonists with amazingly steep slopes supporting tangles of shrubs in a moss mat. Landslides are rare because of support offered by crevices in the rock. To the south, on slaty sediments, very large slips are common, with entire mats of vegetation and soil sliding from the cliffs.


Pioneer vegetation starts growing on typical lithosols. The a dramatic change occurs after the initial covering by mosses and other plants which form a humus layer of increasing thickness. The Meren Valley, were vegetation has been growing since the 1920s, the overall pH is 10 but in the moss mat this drops to 7, with an underlying mineral surface of 9. As the humus layer builds up with more plant growth, the pH drops further toward acid levels. The deep peat bogs off Lake Larsen are down to 5.5, with a base of limestone. These limestones weather very rapidly but release little insoluble residue, making for a sharp break with the peat.


Alpine plants everywhere must adapt to low nutrient levels. In the Jaya area, the tussock grassland dominated by Deschampsia klossii only occurs when soil depth reaches 40 cm. Poorly drained depressions support a range of vegetation in accordance with the duration and extent of water accumulation. The soils are generally peaty, to be expected in such environment; low fertility and waterlogged soils are the norm. The vegetation adapt to the environment by flowering throughout the year, due to lack of a distinct growing season. Most insects not very common pollinators here except for lots of night flying moths to do the job, especially on humid nights. Birds are the key pollinators of Rhododendron spp. and some other woody, mainly ericaceous plants. Most of the Rhododendron species found above 3000m are red-flowered. At lower altitudes, the flower colors of orange and white are the most common. Red flowers are pollinated by honeyeaters, white ones (often scented) by hawkmoths, and orange flowers by butterflies.


Five communities were surveyed in the Jaya Massif zone. At the lower elevations within this zone, the plants are grouped into an alpine grassland with scattered tuft grasses and occasional small tussocks in conjunction with scattered shrubs reaching up to 40 cm. At the Grasberg’s exposed crest tipping the granite hill, the main grasses were Styphelia suaveolens and Tetramolopium enricoides. Plants grow to the limit of the physical root-holds. The ground cover mixes bryophytes and lichens. Scattered shrubs were in evidence, never surpassing 40 cm. Similar communities were found on limestone equivalents where the shrubs formed an alpine heath.


Alpine tussock grasslands features the grass Deschampia klossii in densely packed tussocks on well-drained soils within the altitude range of 4000 to 4500 meters. There are no tall shrubs in this community, nor tussocks surpassing 40 cm. as found in subalpine grasslands. Neoglacial advances and retreats have prevented soil buildup in most areas above 4450 meters. The plot location for this community’s survey was at the New Zealand Pass, at 4240 meters. Aside from Deschampia there are other grasses, ferns and dicot herbs alongside terrestrial mosses, hepatics and lichens.


The next community surveyed, an alpine heath, had not been described before in New Guinea and appears to be almost entirely restricted to the Jaya Massif. The plant assemblage was named for the two dominant species: Tetramolopium kolssii - Rhacumitrium heath. The community thrives in stony moraine areas which have been exposed to a steady ice retreat over the past 120 years. The heath occupies the zone which has been ice-free for more than 30 years, extending into the Meren Valley from 3950 to 4200 meters and in the New Zealand Pass where the ice advance was restricted, between 4250 and 4450 meters. The dominant grass grows as scattered shrubs reaching 30 cm. from a sparse moss carpet. Aside from the New Zealand Pass, releves were taken from the Lower Meren Valley at 4005 and 4050 meters, the upper part of the same valley at 4210 meters and from the Yellow Valley at 4278 meters.


Dry alpine tundra communities are found in the most recent moraines from 4230 to 4600 meters which have been exposed by retreating ice for the past 30 years. This substrate is being colonized by mosses providing the major cover and a few herbaceous species which are able to grow in the alkaline mineral soil. The bryophytes and very scattered tuft grasses form a tundra-like vegetation which owes its origins not only to extremely wet conditions but also to long-term variations in climate. At 4254 meters in the upper Meren Valley, where the moraine has been ice-free for only 10 years, there are three dicot herbs and a terrestrial moss. Slightly lower in the same valley, at 4345 meters, ice-free for 15 years at the time of the study, there were but two dicot herbs but three terrestrial mosses. Higher up in Meren, at 4480 meters and above the Northwall, the moraine has been ice-free for 25 years. The community here was more varied as to be expected, with three shrubs, three grasses, seven dicot herbs, six terrestrial mosses and a sole red-fruiting terrestrial crustose lichen.


In the wet alpine tundra the limestone substrate is very well drained at high altitudes, with little water accumulation and intermittent streams. The Yellow Valley’s very flat floor is crossed by many low moraines. Behind some of these moraines and in a few rock basins, a continuous moss mat supports a few herbaceous species. This vegetation is similar to the one in the same zone on Mt. Wilhelm in PNG. The majority of the mosses have been tentatively identified as Breutelia aristifolia, providing a cushion for dicot herbs. Sedges are also found here, with occasional stunted tufts of the very adaptable Deschampia klossii. The two sample sites of this wet alpine tundra vegetation yielded the Deschampia grass, one other monocot, five dicot herbs and three terrestrial mosses. The sample area was surrounded by the Tetramolopium heath described above.


Flora of the glacier lakes

In the Jaya Massif area, surface streams are relatively important only on the most recently glaciated bedrock or between lakes very close to each other, with one downhill. Nearly all the lakes are underlain by very pure limestone and are without surface inlet or outlet. In the upper Meren Valley, the lakes are at 4250 meters and less than 70 years old. Their basins were excavated by the glacier in the weaknesses of the valley floor. The lower Meren glacier lakes are between 100 to 1000 years old. Lakes Biru and Ketel occupy the higher end of this section of the valley, at 4020 meters.  Lake Biru lies directly beneath the steep bedrock valley step which marks the boundary between bedrock and till on the floor of the valley. These lakes represent the area where ice stagnated below the valley step during retreat. Bedrock appears as an outcrop at the foot of the step between Lake Ketel and Lake Hijau but, for the most part, the step is plastered with till incised by the creek draining Lake Ketel towards Lake Hijau. This lake is dammed by one of the ridges in the complex of end moraines at the limit of the neo-glacial advance. The inlet stream below the valley step fans out, probably reflecting the braided pattern of the glacifluvial drainage which causes sedimentation and encroachment into the lake along the whole of the eastern shore.


The lakes pytoplankton includes 11 species of Cyanopyte, 4 Pyrrophyta, 3 Euglenopyta, 18 Chrysopyta and 20 Chlorophyta. The zooplankton includes two species of Protozoa, two Rotifera, 3 Cladocera, 5 Copepoda, and 5 Insecta which includes midge and mosquito larvae, along with mites.


Cryovegetation on the glaciers of Mt. Jaya

The dark specs or small black flakes which are scattered across the ice pools and englaciated lakes vary from a few centimeters to 10 meters across and up to 4m deep. The pools contain very clear water in which scattered black mats several centimeters in diameter rest on the ice bottom or float across the top. The ice is clean and clear as the tropical jungle and frequent rains at lower altitudes prevent much dust or other debris from rising in the atmosphere to be incorporated in the snow that forms the glacier.

The surface discoloration due to colonies of algae, forming cryovegetation.

Seven species were reported. It is this species composition of the cryoassociations which determines their microscopic appearance and seems to reflect physical rather than chemical differences in the habitats. Two new variations have been identified.


The cryovegetation plays a role in initiating depressions which form englacial lakes. Radiation measurements indicated that 90 per cent of the light radiation reflected by the surface of bare ice was absorbed by the black colonies. The temperature measurements indicated that heat was accumulated by the black colonies. They show an increase in temperature over the surrounding ice and water from 1.2 to 7.5 degrees C. Only rarely did the surface freezing occur in the higher lakes overnight. In cold climates, cryoconite holes often result from dust on ice and snow surfaces, usually from both organic and inorganic wind-blown debris. The Jaya Massif’s englacial lakes are formed by a cryoconite process, but the layer is predominantly organic and, rather than being detrital and wind-blown, it is composed mainly of living and regenerating cryovegetation. Perhaps the term cryovegetation more appropriate than cryoconite lakes. These cryovegetation lakes are the largest reported, adding a new dimension to the study of cyoconite phenomenon. The particular factors favoring this are the optimum balance between incoming radiant energy, portions of ultra-violet radiation, partial pressure of oxygen, suitable glacier physiography and ice impermeability.


II. Insects

Until recently, there had been only two serious collection of insect fauna in this general area. One was by A. F. R.  Wollaston between 1909 and 1913, along the Mimika and the Otakwa Rivers in the course of two expeditions. The published reports from Wollaston’s work are the single most significant contribution to the knowledge of insects for the Freeport area. In 1910, A. S. Meek also collected along the Otakwa River, under the sponsorship of the wealthy Water Rothschild for his Tring Museum. Both the Wollaston and the Meek collections are now housed at the Natural History Museum in London.


Around this time, Dutch explorations of Irian’s south coast resulted in some incidental insect collections. The first one, west of the Freeport area at Etna Bay in 1904, was led by R. Posthumus Mayes and E. J. de Rochemont. Two others, in 1907 and 1912 covered an area to the west. Both were led by H. A. Lorentz (whence the name of the park) and collected along a river variously named the Noord, the Lorentz and the Unir.


More recently, and thanks to the newly established Freeport road infrastructure, two Australian expeditions explored the area of the Carstensz glaciers and made a small collection of insects. Then John Matabang of the WWF surveyed butterflies in the lowlands area (50 meters above sea level) between Agats and the Mimika region where he collected two birdwing butterfly species which were not supposed to live below 1000 meters: Ornithoptera chimaera and O. goliath. In the highlands, in the vicinity of the Amung village of Jila, a completely white type Morphotaena sp. (Family Amathusidae???) was discovered, frequently observed by the WWF, in relatively high densities. This white form had previously only been known from mountain areas of PNG and has never been seen in any location in Irian outside of Jila.


In March 1997, an entomological survey was conducted as part of the environmental impact assessment survey for the expansion of the Freeport mine. The survey’s main purpose was to establish a baseline for a monitoring program. The scientists were hampered by an extreme and unusual dry spell a result of El Niño. Normal rainfall is very high in the area: 2.5 meters in Timika, 11 meters at the 575 elevation point, 4.1 meters at Tembagapura and 2.9 meters a year at the mine. The dry spell resulted in a very notable reduction of insects. The team was also lacked some of the required logistical support, but they nevertheless did an admirable job. When taken in conjunction with the Wollaston reports, we now have a fair idea as to the composition of some of the major insect groups found in the south-central portion of Irian Jaya.


Among the insect groups surveyed, three ‘indicator’ (of the biodiversity) aquatic groups were collected, from sea level to 4000 meters, resulting in many critters new to science. In the group Heteroptera/Hemiptera (aquatic true bugs: water striders and others who can walk on the water surface) 65 species were collected, of which at least 41 were new to science. The damselflies of the group Zygoptera yielded 27 species, from which four are probably new. And in the whirlygig beetles group, Gyrinidae, the researchers came up with five species, of which one or two are probably new ones. These three groups were chosen due to their consistency of representation across the range of habitats in the project area. Their relatively well known taxonomy allowed identifications to at least the genus level and reduced the number of undescribed species. The survey found that the diversity of the aquatic insects diminished rapidly over 1200 meters. Above 1700 meters, the aquatic insects were limited to cold-water specialists: mostly belonging to the families Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Trichoptera (caddisflies), Diptera (chironomid midges), and Coleoptera (predaceous diving beetles).


Insects’ scientific names tend to disorient the non-specialist. That includes me. So a bit of elucidation for the layman. The Order Hemiptera/Heteroptera includes a guild of surface-dwelling insects with common names like water striders, creeping water bugs, surface-skating bugs, riffle bugs and backswimmers. Some are predaceous on pests such as mosquito larvae. Some of the better known families are the Gerridae, water striders; the Belostonatidae, giant water bugs which can inflict painful bites on humans; the Nepidae, water scorpions, also with a painful bite and predaceous on other insects and the Velidae, ripple bugs or small water striders.


The Odonata includes two main divisions: the Anisoptera or dragonflies with relatively stout bodies and the Zygoptera, with very slender abdomen. Both groups have elongated membraneous, many-veined wings whose pattern of veination are a major clue for identification. The Anisoptera usually hold their wings outstretched when at rest while the Zygoptera fold them together over the body. Both dragonflies and damsels fly in tandem when mating, the male holding the female by the back of the head or the prothorax with the appendages at the end of his abdomen. This group of insects, in all stages of development, are predaceous, feeding on mosquitoes, midges and other small insects. A great biological control of pests. The Ephemeroptera, the mayflies, are perhaps the most graceful of insects, long, slender and curved bodies, including an abdomen with two or three hairlike tails. The Trichoptera of caddisflies are strange in that they usually move backwards considerably faster than forward. 


Among the Coleoptera we have the family of the Gyrinoidea which includes the whirlygigs who have received this name due to their group swimming in an odd, gyrating way. They are different from all other beetles by having two pairs of eyes; one for seeking prey and keeping a lookout for enemies above water and the other for the same purpose but underwater. Most are predaceous. Some of the adults give off a pineapple-like smell when reacting to being handled. Another family of this group, the Dysticidae, are highly predaceous diving beetles, feeding on anything that moves, including fish. Their larvae, called water tigers sport large, sickle-like jaws to suck their prey’s body contents.


The survey concentrated on the Ajkwa/Otomona river system which runs through the middle of the Freeport project area from the mountains in the north to the Arafura Sea to the south, along some 110 km. The first third or the rivers run down steep mountain valleys to the 600 m elevation mark where the alluvial plain begins. This flat and sloped plateau extends about 10 km., to 450 meters. The substrate is made up of leached soil which supports a dwarf heath forest. Aside from the main rivers coming from the mountains, the area is drained by ‘blackwater’ streams whose characteristic dark color comes from anaerobic decomposition of plants. At 450 meters the land opens into the true coastal lowlands, with a considerable slowing of the current until the water reaches slack water peat swamps. What water flow remains ends up in the maze of connected waterways in the mangrove swamps and inter-connected estuaries of the area’s major and minor rivers.


The conclusions of the aquatic survey team indicated that the Grasberg mine would not result in any long-term loss of aquatic insect life in the river basin as a whole but that there was a very serious threat to the aquatic biodiversity caused by the introduction of non-indigenous fish species from other areas of Indonesia. The main introduced fishes are snakeheads, climbing perch, walking catfish and tilapia.


Eight other major groups of insects were also surveyed.

1. cicadas: Order Homoptera, families Cicadidae and Tibicinidae

2. flat planthoppers: Order Homoptera, family Flatidae

3. dung beetles: Order Coleoptera, family Scarabaeidae

4. butterflies: Order Lepidoptera, family Papilionoidea

5. skippers: Order Lepidoptera, family Hesperiidae

6. moths: Order Lepidoptera, especially the families Geometridae and Crambidae

7. parasitic wasps: Order Hymenoptera, family Chalcididae

8. parasitic wasps: Order Hymenoptera, family Ichneumonidae 


In choosing these groups, the scientists were guided by the fact that their study was to lead to a following monitoring program. Thus the target groups needed general distribution, correlation with environmental disturbances, relative ease of identification and life-styles which allowed sampling methods which are standardized, quantitative and cost-effective for statistical analysis. The group recommended follow-up studies of soil arthropods, earthworms, soil nematodes and land snails, all important for restorative ecology needed in reclamation projects. A special plea was made to avoid the introduction of the more aggressive ants, such as the fire-stinging species of Solenopsis which have recently caused plenty of grief and havoc in the southern part of the United States.


The cicadas, noisiest critters in the tropical rain forest, were chosen because they are the best known group of insects in New Guinea. These insects are mostly arboreal and buzz pulsates at times. In chorus, the sound can become overwhelmingly loud: a cacophony of sound which overpowers even a whining of a powerful outboard engine. They are easily trapped as they are attracted to lights at night. In Borneo they can attain be huge enough perhaps 10 to 12 cm. to scare a human (me). Having one fly into you full tilt is most unpleasant, aside from just plain hurting. With plenty of taxonomic information, along with existent biogeographical studies, this group of insects are a most useful indicator group. Due to the unusual dry conditions at the time of the survey, only 23 specimen were collected in the Freeport transect, but in follow-up studies, they will undoubtedly prove to be more numerous and a good indicator group. There is also the intriguing possibility to monitor cicadas based on their chirps, using techniques already in wide use for identifying birds and frogs. During this survey, the 23 individuals were identified as belonging to three genera and representing eight species. They were collected at six separate locations, between the lowlands and Tembagapura. All were New Guinea endemics.


The flat planthoppers also readily come to trap lights, thus one of the best known insects groups of the Order Homoptera. Some resemble a leaf with a head. In the mountains, they can grow to huge size, over 20 cm. The unusual dry weather also affected the collection of these insects, with only six specimen gathered. But these included three species new to science, with a new genus as well. Only two species had previously been known to science. 


There were no problems finding dung beetles: 732 individuals were collected from the mangroves to Ridge Camp, the highest point this group had representative. None were found at the mine site. While no new genera were identified, many of the species were new to science. Within the group, the members of the Onthophagini family were the most numerous, with but a single genera but 28 different species, of which 22 were new to science. The Scarabaeini family showed three genera and five species, including three very probable new ones. The Coprini family had but one species, also new, while the Cantonini family had but a single, unknown, species.  The dung beetles are among the best known group due to their importance in decomposing faeces (dung) which are an essential task for the well being of the biosystem. In New Guinea however, they have not been well studies and some it has been suggested that some 80 per cent of the dung beetles on the island are endemics.


Butterflies were chosen as another indicator group for several reasons. They are engaged in a more attractive life-style and are prettier to most humans than dung beetles - but perhaps beauty is in the eyes of the beholder for dung beetle specialists. Due to their attraction to man, butterflies have long been collected and studied in New Guinea, making them the best known group of insects on the island. They also reflect biodiversity of an area as they are very dependent on specific food plants. Some 2000 butterfly specimen were brought to the scientists in the Freeport survey, tentatively classified into some 93 species. Most butterflies were found in the marginal secondary forests of the lowlands, with some of the most common species being Appias celestina, Ideopsis juventa, Junonia villida and Parthenos tigrina.


See butterflies book for description of these!!!!


We had no problem to come upon the very handsome swallow-tailed butterfly which lives up to the last part of its scientific name Lyssa zampa docilis. Ditto for the Junonia villida, often seen around the Sheraton swimming pool. And out in the Kamoro jungle camps, we were able to snap shots of the unusually patterned Hypolycaena danis, which prefers to feed on orchids. 


See id by Henk when in and add


Butterfly farms could be a money-generating option for the local Papuans. Collectors are willing to pay the price, especially for the birdwing species, the only insects currently protected in the wild by Indonesian law. Currently, overcollecting is only a threat to the larger species, such as Delias and the birdwings. There are eight birdwing species on mainland Irian, with six either know of probable in the Freeport project area. Wollaston collected Troides (Ornithopetera) tithonus, Meek netted Troides (Ornithoptera) chimaera while the survey team captured Troides (Ornithoptera) priamus. According to the scientists doing the survey, Troides (Ornithoptera) goliath and Troides (Ornithoptera) oblongomaculatus (both widespread in Irian) along with Troides (Ornithoptera) paradisea (collected in 1979 nearby) should all be found in the Freeport area.


Aside from these, in Kekwa Village (on the coast, just west of the Freeport project area) we photographed Priam’s or the Green Birdwing, Ornithoptera priamus, the first one known to the outside world, causing a lot of excitement among European collectors before being named by Linnaeus, the father of scientific classification, in 1758. But we had no luck finding what is said to be our area’s endemic birdwing, Ornithoptera meridionalis, a rare customer which may well become threatened unless the commercial trade in this species become regulated. This birdwing currently sells for $US 100 in Bali for a poor quality specimen and that sum can be multiplied several times for a good quality one in Japan. We have already heard of Japanese collectors sending Kamoro out to hunt this birdwing, armed with photos. A rare find.


When we look at the most common species found by the survey, the climate during the survey as well as time spent collecting have to be taken into account. The unusually dry conditions affected the highlands much more than the lower elevation where many more species are found under normal conditions. Many more people collected in the lowlands than in the higher areas.


From sea level to about 100 meter elevation (Kuala Kencana) the most common species and the numbers collected were as follows: Appias celestina (50); Cupha prosope (11); Cyrestis acilia (13); Elymnias agondas (17); Euploea spp. (three unidentified species, with 16, 21 and 31 individuals collected for each one); Euploea latifasciata (11); Eurema candida (20); Eurema hecabe (20); Ideopsis juventa piada (60 - mangroves only);  Junonia villida (209); Mycalesis phidon (45); Mycalesis mucia (41); Mycalesis sp. (13); Taenaris artemis (39); Taenaris dioptrica (13); Parthenos tigrina (158).


In the next elevation range, from 120 meters to the foot of the steep rise in the mountains at 600 meters, the most common species were: Appias clelestina (22);

Cepora abnormis (65); Cethosia chrysippe (13); Cupha prosope (10); Cyrestis acilia (15);

Eurema candida (29); Eurema hecabe (23); Mucalesis mahadeva (11); Mycalesis mucia (15); Mycalesis phidon (34); Papilio aegeus (16); Parthenos tigrina (22); Psychonotis melane (?) (13). These numbers should be somewhat lower and the 0 to 100 meter species list higher as the above list includes a set if individuals collected in both zones.


In the higher elevations, above 600 meters, local endemics are much more common, but the number of individuals collected quite small. There were only three genera where more than 10 individuals were captured: Mycalesis discolobus (66); Delia pheres (16); and Delia toxopei (12).


Adding the Wollaston collections from the early part of this century, the area’s butterfly total comes to 198, a goodly number, if we remember that all of New Guinea has a total of only 960 species. The overlap between the Freeport and the Wollaston lists include some 70 species. The earlier count, with much more time available, shows over 100 species not on the Freeport list, while the latter has 21 species which were not collected by Wollaston. When broken down by the four ‘true’ butterfly families, in the Papilionidae, with a total of 14 species, Wollaston collected 11 species and the Freeport team 12. For the Pieridae family, we have a total of 39 species, with Wollaston’s score 28 and Freeport’s 26 species. In the Nymphalidae family, out of 80 species, Wollaston wins by 68 to 51. In the Lycaenidae family, Wollaston collected 62 species and Freeport was unwilling to come up with a number, waiting for expert identification. A fifth family, the Hesperiidae or skippers, look like small butterflies to the layman but are sometimes placed in a different category by scientists. There were 12 species of these found by the Freeport team.


Aside from butterflies, the Order Lepidoptera also embraces moths. On a world-wide scale, moths outnumber butterflies by a factor of about 11 to one, with some 225,000 species. We have seen no estimates for the total number of moths, actually identified or estimated for either the whole island or just Irian. During the Freeport survey, over 3000 species of moths were collected, with 246 species identified. As with the other teams, the moth specialists’ main problem was the extremely dry weather during the survey, making collecting difficult. Most insects just lay low during dry spells. Out of the 246 species, 153 were represented by a single individual, making identifications problematic. But they could state with a fair degree of certainty that just about all the moths collected around the mine were undescribed by scientists.


The moth team’s attention concentrated on the better known moth families, especially the Geometridae and the Crambidae, and to a lesser extent on the Pyralidae, the Sphingidae, the Thyrididae and the Uraniidae. The best known of these groups, the Geometridae, is represented in New Guinea by some 2000 species. Wollaston collected 133 identified species of these. But, unlike for butterflies, this team was unwilling to make comparisons between their collection and Wollaston’s due to the small number of their sample, too many species represented by only one individual and a lack of sufficient taxonomic work. While many species remain to be positively identified, at least we know that there were a total of 77 genera represented in the survey. The genera with the most potential new species include Ennominae (28, all unindentified), Myrioblephara (10, of which 6 unidentified), ‘Prasinocyma’ (21 with 6 needing identification), Sterrhochaeta (11 with at least 5 unidentified species), and Tripteridia (25 of which 12 need identification).


Parasitic wasps were the last group of insects covered by the Freeport survey. These animals are classed in the Order Hymenoptera and two families were investigated. The Chalcididae family, with some 100,000 species world-wide, is well to specialists, even if physically tiny and taxonomically complex. There are at least nine genera of chalcicoid wasps in New Guinea. Many members of the family are parasites of the four ‘true’ butterfly families on the island. Others are helpful to man as they are parasites on more than 30 species of agricultural pests. During the survey, 37 individuals were collected, grouped into four genera (Brachymeria, Anthrocephalus, Dirhinus and Epitranus) and 12 species. Out of these 12 species, two are definitely new to science, with five more of indeterminate status. The other family sampled, Ichneumonidae, were chosen as they are easily attracted to light and have been extensively studied in Costa Rica and elsewhere in ecological and biogeographical works. Unfortunately, the dry weather made collecting difficult and the results of the survey were unavailable in my reference book.







For the Lorentz National Park we have the following list of butterflies or the Delia genus:


Group or subgroup///Sub-species///Area of occurrence

WM = western mountain area of the park; EM = Eastern mountain area of the park; LA = Lower areas of the park, south of the range; ? = doubt about exact location.

Chrysomelanea group: Delias ladas levis (LA) and D. ladas wamenaenis (LA)

Geraldina group; Sagessa sub-group: D. geraldina spp. (WM); D. microsticha microstiga (WM, EM); D. riyeli yofona (WM, EM); D. hypomelas rubrostiata (WM); D. hypomelas lieftincke (EM); D. argentata argentata (EM);


Facelis sub-group: D. facelis amungme (WM); D. facelis ibelana (EM)

Aroae-spheres sub-group: D. yabenis (EM); D. balimensis (EM); D. approximata rectimargo (WM, EM)

Eichhorni sub-group: D. heliophora germana (EM); D. antara (EM); D. carstensziana (WM); D. Carstensziana f. alcicornis (EM); D. leucobalia distincta (WM); D. leucobalia ericetorum (EM); D. catisa wisseliana (?); D. catisa aurostriga (EM); D. toxopei morosa (WM); D. toxopei toxopei (EM)

Bornemanni group: D. nais denigrata (WM); D. nais holophaea (EM); D. zebra zebra (EM); D. klossi klossi (WM); and D. klossi chrysanthemum (EM)

Mesoblema sub-group: D. arabuana arabuana (WM, EM); D. flavistriga flavistriga (EM); D. callista callipulchra (WM); D. callista callipareia (EM); D. luctosa gottsi (WM); D. luctosa archiboldi (EM)

Weiski group: D. hapalina spp. Nov. ? (WM); D. hapalina amoena (EM)

Weiski sub-group: D. leucias leucias (WM, EM); D. rosamontana rosamontana (EM)

Kummeri group: D. ligata weylandensis (WM); D. ligata interpolata (EM); D. alepa spp. ? (WM); D. alepa orthobasis EM)

Mairae sub-group: D. walshae walshae (EM); D. inexpectata spp. nov.? (WM); D. inexpectata (WM).

Mira sub-group: D. hiemalis flabella new species (?) (WM) D. autumnalis autumnalis (EM)

Niepelti group: D. meeki hypochrysis (WM, EM); D. meeki hypoxantha (WM, EM)

Belisima group: D. aruna irma (LA);

Hyparete group: D. mysis lara (LA)


(preliminary species list; main source: Henk van Mastricht)


IV. Fresh water fishes

The Freeport Project area holds 80 fish species, grouped into 51 genera and 31 families. It is one of the richest in New Guinea. The fish life is dominated by a relatively few families: catfishes, rainbowfishes, gobies and gudgeons are particularly abundant. During the various surveys by Dr. Allen, four new species were found: a cardinalfish (Glossamia),

a gudgeon (Osyeleostris), plus in 1995, two new blue-eye (Pseudomugil). Tailings depositions have severely impacted the aquatic community, including fishes, prawns, and aquatic insects: but no long term damage is expected by the biologists. The problem according to them in the long-term is the introduction of exotic fishes, a serious threat to the local wild populations. These are recent arrivals, brought in by non-Papuan transmigrants.


The Freeport area falls within the Great Southern Region of New Guinea which extends from the Etna Bay to the Purari Delta. These are extensive alluvial lowland plains, with thick deposits from the Fly and Digul, along with lesser rivers. This region is the most species-rich in New Guinea, reflecting its relatively stable geological history. There are many endemics along with 35 species shared with northern Australia, including the prized barramundi. Inland from both the north and south shores of the Arafura Sea there are closely allied species of rainbowfishes and gudgeons. There are 37 endemic species in this southern region, including several endemic genera of ariids, Cochlefelis, Doiichthys, Nedystoma and Tetranesodon. Another endemic genus, Kiunga, is only found in PNG. This area is also the sole New Guinea home of the barramundi, Lates calcarifer


On a proportional basis, the Timika area compares very favorably in species richness. The Wania, Aikwa and Kamora Rivers drain a catchemt area of 3000 km2 and hold 80 species. The largest river system, that of the Fly in PNG, holds 153 species (including five endemics) but in a much larger drainage area of 76,000 km2. To the north, the Mamberamo’s 50,000 km2 hosts 140 species, with four endemics. Just to the east, the Lorentz River drains 10,000 km2 with a fish fauna of 60 species including an endemic. The larger number of species in other river systems is at least partially due to the fact that these drain a much more extensive area of foothills lying in elevations of 400 to 1000 meters. For example, the Fly River system runs through almost 1000 km. of these foothills where 20 per cent of its species are found. In contrast, the rivers in the Timika area drain less than 75 km. before high mountains restrict fish diversity. Here there are only four species at the base of the mountains and none over 1000 meters.


While the various surveys in the Timika area found four new fish species, these are probably not endemics as they are most likely also thrive in the rivers to the east and west. The four new little critters include a cardinalfish, Glossamia timika, a gudgeon, Oxyeleotris stagnicola, and two blue-eyes, Pseudomugil ivanstoffi and P. pellucidus.


The five introduced fishes include the ornamental aquarium killifish Aplocheilus panchax found in the ponds around the Freeport environmental lab and providing a degree of mosquito control. The four others are the walking catfish, the tilapia, the climbing perch and the snakehead. This latter pest is notorious for habitat degradation, competition and predation of native fishes, but also frogs, crustaceans, snakes and insects. There is a general reduction of fish species diversity if snakeheads present. In 1997 there were already found in the Kuala Kencana streams and were spreading fast.


For the New Guinea fish species in the area, the richest sites are located in the peat swamps and the undisturbed lowland rain forest waterways. Some 50 of the 80 species are found here. Unfortunately, this is precisely the zone most affected by the recent population influx, leading to habitat degradation. Of all the local species, some 70 per cent are carnivorous, feeding mostly on insects, various larvae and shrimp. The rest are mostly herbivorous with some also taking insects, thus becoming omnivores. It is interesting to note, as wrote Dr.. Allen, that this carnivore to herbivore ratio is generally the same as the marine coral fish communities. 


Spawning peaks in the Timika area during the rainy season, from around May through September. This applies to the plotosid catfishes, the glassfishes, the hardyheads and the rainbowfishes. There a rationale to the timing: rain means flooding which means shelter as streamside vegetation becomes inundated and the concomitant increased turbidity helps to protects juveniles against fish and bird predators. Many local groups are demersal spawners, in sharp contrast to floating pelagic eggs and larvae of most marine fishes. Several groups practice strange parental care for their eggs: Kurtus gulliveri incubates them on a bony hook in its forehead, while the tilapia, forked-tailed catfishes and arowana prefer oral incucation. This is done mostly by the males mostly, with female doing this maternal care for the tilapia and the arowana.


While most of the above text on fishes come from Dr. Allen’s widespread experience in New Guinea as well as on-site surveys, another valuable source of information is being continuously produced by the mining company. It began a long-term environmental monitoring program (LTEMP) in 1995, continuing on a quarterly basis to the present (2001). The marine and fresh-water section of this through program provides valuable information on productive fish and shrimp and reaffirms the coastal zone’s importance for the commercial species caught by offshore trawlers.


V. Frogs, snakes, turtles, lizards and crocodiles

The Freeport project area falls into two of the major biogeographical regions for amphibians and reptiles in Irian Jaya. These are the Southern Lowlands, running from Etna Bay east to the PNG border and inland to the beginning of the steep mountains at about 600 meters. The other one is the Sudirman (or Snow) Mountains, covering the central highlands from the Pania Lakes to Wamena in the Baliem Valley. These two zones represent about 18 per cent of the island’s total area.


A 1997 survey for Freeport recorded at least 80 species of amphibians and reptiles, with another 20 likely to occur. 18 days in the field yielded 1389 specimen. These were found in four different elevation zones: lowland, mid-montane, montane and subalpine. The ecosystems covered included mangrove swamps, lowland forest, heath forest, lower montane and montane forest, alpine shrub associations, alpine grasslands and tundra. Only one species was found in the subalpine zone, an undescribed Lobulia sp. nov.


Many of these species in the area are protected under Indonesian law or international conventions. The species under greatest threat and greatest concern are the two crocodiles, Crocodylus porosus and C. novaeguinea, two fresh water turtles, Carettochelys insulpta and Chelonia novaeguinea, along with one varanid, Varanus salvadorii. Add one python, Morelia boeleni, highly valued in the pet trade, with practically nothing know about its ecology. There are at least five other boa and python species in the company’s project area. 


During the survey, at least two new species were found new to science and several others were recorded in the area for the first time, thus extending the known range of these the animals. The species recorded for the first time in the area include the python Morelia albatross, a large and very distinctive species which previously was known on the south coast only from the Bomberai Peninsula. Another record of this type is the large lizard Tiliqua scincoides gigas. During the survey, it was seen that the Papuan collectors had little fear of the common and highly poisonous death adder Acanthophis antacticus, but the Tiliqua was considered highly dangerous due to the fact that the Papuans thought it was very poisonous and with no cure once someone was bitten. Thus it is killed on sight. (There are but two poisonous lizards in the world, both endemic to the deserts which extend from north-west Mexico into the south-west part of the United States.) Perhaps, like the Komodo dragon, the saliva of the Tiliqua holds bacteria which makes infects wound and can cause death. The name of this lizard in eastern Indonesian is ‘ular kaki empat’, four-legged snake.


Freeport contracted Hatfindo for a follow-up survey of crocodiles and turtles, performed at the end of 2000 and early 2001. The survey told of two species of crocodiles and five species of turtles.


For the crocodile survey, 246 linear kilometers of rivers, estuaries and creeks were surveyed. The night time technique consisted of shining a bright light on the riverbank, reflected as an orange-reddish glow from the tapatum in the crocs’ eyes. The total was 37 crocodiles seen, with 13 positively identified as Crocodylus porosus. There could have been an absence of the other Crocodylus novaeguinea, as in other areas these are sometimes reluctant to live with their bigger cousins. But the total numbers were also low compared to similar ecosystems of the island. Most of what the team saw were hatchlings and juveniles. This could be due to over-hunting in the past or poaching in the present. And the larger crocodiles become increasingly wary with age, having learned from experience it’s none too healthy to show themselves to humans. 


The team only collected two species of turtles, Elseya novaeguinea (now E. branderhorsti) and Emydura subglobosa while they purchased two more species from the Papuans: Pelochelys bibroni (this is one tough customer to capture) and Chelodina novaeguinea. The presence of this last customer has extended the range for the species from the former confirmed western limit of the Fly River Delta. I can personally confirm the presence of Carettochelys insculpta, our pig-nosed friend, formerly thought not to exist to the west of the Lorentz National Park. This pig-nosed turtle occurs in a range of aquatic habitats, including turbid and clear rivers, estuaries, lagoons, lakes and swamps. Unfortunately for the species, its unusual nose makes it a much-valued item in the pet trade as well as stuffed ornaments. A recent newspaper article gave details of the trade in Irian Jaya, stating that in river ports near Merauke forestry officers found 5000 young pig-nosed turtles ‘ready to be sent to Timika and later to Surabaya’s pet and bird shops.’.


Both Elseya subglobosa and Elseya novaeguinea are common in south New Guinea but surprisingly few were found by the survey, even in their preferred habitat, slow moving rain forest streams. Perhaps the reason was unseasonally high rivers. The mid-December time frame, when these turtles begin to breed, should correspond to the beginning of the dry season in this area - but nature did not collaborate with her own schedule in 2000. During the 1997 survey, at a time of severe drought, these turtles were seen and easily captured in pools of deeper water.


Stomach analyses of the captured specimen revealed a varying diet: for the Elseya branderhorsti, it was blue-green algae, arthropods, fruits, the flower of Dillenia sp., Coleoptera, the fruit of Scaevola sp., Pandanus spp., Piper sp. leaves, and Polyporus sp. mushrooms, along with Gnetum genemo leaves and fruit. Elseya subglobosa was a bit pickier: algae, arthropods and indeterminable gelatinous animal matter.


Freeport area and the Lorentz Park

The herpetofaunal species from the Lorentz Park are similar to the Freeport area. The estimate for the park is some 150 species of amphibians and reptiles. This includes data from 1914 as well as from the 1997 Freeport survey. The herpetofauna list for the combined Freeport and the Lorentz Park, recorded or expected, is as follows:



Family Hylidae: Litoria arfakiana, L.. chloronata; L. eucnemis; L. genimaculata; L. infrafrenata; L. nigropunctata, L. pygmaea; L sanguinolenta, L. thesaurensis; L. wollastoni; Nyctimystes granti and N. monata.


Family Microhylidae: Copiula oxyrhina, Cophixalus cricifer, Hylophorbus rufescens, Oreophryne albopuncatata, O. biroi, O. crucifera, O. flava, O. kampani, Callulops robustus, Sphenophryne brevicus, S. cornuta, S. klossi, S. macroryncha, S. schlaginhaufeni, S. macrorhyncha, Xenobatrachus giganteus, X. macrops, X. ocellatus, X. sp., Xenorhina minima, X. similis [??].


Family Ranidae: the ‘true’ frogs - Platymantis papuensis; Rana arfaki; R. daemeli; R. grisea; R. grunniens; R. novaeguineae, R. papua.



Family Carettochelida: Carettochelys insculpta, the Fly River Turtle, a popular trade species. (Note: it was thought that this species reached its westernmost limit in the park but the author of this paper found them in the Kamoro area, a considerable distance to the west.)

Family Chelidae: Side-Necked Turtles:

Elysyea novaeguineae and Emydura subglossa, both popular trade species; also, expected: Chelodina reimanni, endemic to the general area.

Family Trionychidae, Soft-Shelled Turtles, Pelochelys bibroni



Family Agamidae, six species:

Hypsilurus auritus; H. binotatus; H. dilophus; H. godeffroyi; H. modestus; H. nigrigularis

Family Gekkonidae, 8 species: Crytodactylus louisadenis, C. marmoratus; C. mimikanus; Gehyra interstitialis, G. mutiala; Gekko vittatus; Hemidactylus frenatus; Nactus pelgicus

Family Scincidae, 33 species, including Tiliqua scincoides gigas, and Tribolonotus novaeguineae, both popular trade species.

Carlia fusca; Emoia aenea; E. bogerti; E. caeruleocauda; E. irianensis; E. jamur; E. klossi; E. kordoana; E. longicauda; E. physicina; E. tropidolepsis; E. veracunda; Eugongylus rufescens; Lemprolepsis smaraginda; Lipinia longiceps; *Lobulia sp. nov. ‘alpina’; Lygisaurus novaeguneae; Papuascincus stanleyanus; Prasinophaema semoni; Sphenomorphus jobiensis; S. longicaudatum; S. melanopogon; S. mimikanus; S. muelleri; S. neuhausii; S. nigriventris; S. nototaenius; S. oligolepsis; S. stickeli; S. undulatus; S. wollastoni.

Family Varanidae: V. indicus, (V. pantopes ?), V. prasinus and V. salvadorii



Family Acrochoridae (File snakes)

Acrochordus arafurae, a popular trade species; A. granulatus

Family Colubridae, ‘true snakes’:

Boiga irregularis; Dendrelaphis calligastra, D. gastrosticus, D. lineolatus; D. lorentzii; Enhydris enhydris, E. polylepis, Fordonia leucobalia; Myron richadsoni, Stegonotus cucullatus; S. modestus; S. plumbeus; Tropidonophis doriae; T. multiscutellatus, T. mairii;T. mcdowelli, T. multiscutellatus, T. novaeguinea, T. picturatus

Family Boidae (small boas): Candoia asper (popular trade species) and C. carinata; Family Elapidae (cobra family), with four species:

Acanthophis antarcticus; Aspidomorphus muelleri; Micropechis ikaheka; Pseudochis autralis, Toxicocalamus grandis

Family Pythonidae, with four species:

Morelia albertisii; M. amethistina; M. viridis; M. boelenii.


VI. Birds

The Freeport project area, along with the Lorentz Park, is included in two major endemic bird divisions of the island: the Southern Papuan Lowlands and the Central Papuan Mountain Ranges. In the lowlands there are 51 restricted range species, of which 41 are found in the project area. For the highlands, the Freeport area probably holds seven of the eight restricted range species. The Snow Mountain section of the central mountains includes the Charles Louis, Weygand and Nassau ranges. The special birds in this area include the Snow Mountain Quail, the Short-beaked Melidectes, the Orange-cheeked honeyeaters and the Papuan whipbird. In the lowlands we have the white-bellied Pitohui, the Greater Bird of Paradise and Wallace’s Fruit Dove.


 During the 1997 survey (from 17 January to 18 February) at 22 study sites, 273 species were identified out of a total of 331 known to be present. Of these, 23 per cent are New Guinea endemics in the mangroves and over 80 per cent in the high mountain areas. The most numerous families are the Columbidae pigeons (27 species), the Psittacidae parrots (25 species), the Monarchidae monarch flycathers (20 species), the Meliphagidae honeyeaters (25 species) and the Paradisiae birds of paradise (15 species). While considerable numbers of parrots and lories are illegally exported from the area, four of the largest wide-spread birds of New Guinea are found here, thanks to the lack of shotguns which are used in PNG. While in 1997 no air guns were observed, by 2001 this happy state of affairs for birds no longer existed. The Timika market sees many protected species for sale. While there are occasional crowned pigeons, mostly it’s  parrots, lories and cockatoos, with thousands are shipped to western Indonesia every year. The most favored illegally exported species seem to be the eclectus parrots and especially the Black-capped Lories. There is some hope that the recent WWF office in Timika (opened in May 2001) might put a break on the illegal bird trade.


The Freeport area holds 12 globally threatened bird species with an additional six species which might soon require protection. These include the Southern Cassowary, Salvadori’s Teal, the New Guinea Harpy Eagle, the Southern Crowned Pigeon, Pesquet’s Parrot, the Palm Cockatoo, the Snow Mountain Robin and MacGregor’s Bird-of-paradise. At the moment, almost one third of the total (101 out of 331) number of species are afforded protection under Indonesian law. Many of the species which have disappeared elsewhere in New Guinea near human settlements are still present in the project area, in spite of the initial clearing in 1969 and large-scale transmigration starting in 1984. Many birds can be seen either from the Freeport levees or road leading to the mine, although elsewhere, in the lowlands, large transmigrant populations have put heavy pressure of various species for food, eggs and for sale. Ornithologists believe that at least 20 species of birds of paradise are living in the Lorentz Park, with most of these already seen in the Freeport area or thought to be living there.


The two original Papuan tribes living the Freeport area hunt birds extensively with traditional methods (bow and arrows, sticks, sticky tree resins) for meat, eggs and feathers. The largest is the most prized for the amount of meat: the Southern Cassowary, Casuarius casuarius. The seeds of the Podacarpaceae family of trees has to pass through its digestive system before they can germinate, thus there should be a degree of control in the hunting. The Kamoro also favor the meat of the Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Megapodius freycinet, and the Southern Crowned Pigeon, Goura sheepmakeri as both of these species are relatively large-bodied and easy to hunt. The Amungme of the highlands kill and eat any bird they can, along with just about everything else alive to fill their protein shortage. They also use the tail feathers from the Papuan Lorikeet (Charmosyna papou) and the Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinera), with the latter species playing an important role in warfare. (check on this!!!!!)


[Note: there are various tables we could include here - the lists of the globally threatened species and the six additional ones; the 99 protected species, 26 water birds, the species at various sea level sites and in the variously numbered plots corresponding to sea level to high mountain areas. These and the extensive lists from the Lorentz Park should probably go into an appendix.


The survey team found, as expected from experience elsewhere on the island, that the lowland forest held the highest diversity and combined species richness in vegetation growing on alluvial deposits. There is very little endemicity here, but this rises with the altitude. Of all the species actually recorded, some 60 per cent are endemic to New Guinea.


Looking at the avifauna in the major ecosystems, we start in the mangroves where most of the birds are habitat generalists. There are a number of temporary, non-breeding visitors like the Red-flanked Lorikeet, Charmosyna placentis and pigeons such as the metallic Columba vitensis. There are practically no endemics in this zone, but the team’s leading ornithologist speculates that there just might be a few specimen of the mysterious Flightless Rail, Megacrex inepta, identified from an area just to the east.


In the next ecosystem inland, that of the peat and sago swamps, endemism is also low. But there is a notable exception: the White-bellied Pitohui, whose real name is Pitohui incertus. This rare bird is very vulnerable and known from only two other localities in the southern New Guinea watersheds. This same area also hosts the world-threatened Palm Cockatoo which happily forages on pandanus fruit. As mentioned above, the rain forest is the richest ecosystem for bird variety, as lowlands elsewhere on the island. Here the survey determined that tough to detect resident raptors were still very much alive and well, including eight forest Accipeter species. Better endemicity was found in the heath forest. Here Pesquet’s Parrot thrives, while scarce in other parts of the island.


Moving out of the foothills and up into the mountains, the birds become more interesting to birders and specialists alike. This is where the elusive endemics hang out, safe and out of sight in the high and inaccessible mountains. The Freeport road which cuts through this zone is the only one giving access to the mountains from the south coast west of Merauke. It has been calculated that 86 per cent of New Guinea mountain birds are endemic to the island. In the upper subalpine zone, we find the threatened Salvador Teal and MacGregor’s Bird of Paradise. The Snow Mountain Robin has been also reported here, in their preferred habitat. The alpine lakes and fast flowing rivers are home for tea;, bare rock slopes and cliffs for robins and the grassland subalpine ecotone (transitional area between two adjacent ecological communities) with groves of the coniferous Dacrycarpus compactus (Podocarpaceae) trees for the birds of paradise. In the mine area of the Dome and Grasberg, three unique and very range-restricted species are still found in spite of all the human activity: the Snow Mountain Quail, the Snow Mountain Robin and MacGregor’s Bird of Paradise.


The high mountain fauna had been surveyed earlier by an Australian team (Hope, 1976) reported the most varied bird fauna above 3000 meters. These included the Meliphagidae family, honeyeaters, found common in forests and forest edge habitats. Some birds of paradise, such as Macgregoria pulchra were spotted but most other species of the group did not venture so high. Others birds seen included the Island Thrush, Turdus poliocephalus found in grasslands, the glossy swiftlet Collocalia esculenta near cliffs and Salvador’s teal Anas waigiuensis on water. Robins, Petroica spp. and snow mountain quail Anurophasis monthonyx were also common in the Jaya Massif grasslands.


From data elsewhere in New Guinea, it has been established that there are 67 migratory bird species from Asia in the north. Of these, 25 were seen by the survey team members. There are an additional 70 species from the south, Australia and New Zealand, but one a single one was spotted. Local birders vouch for six more in this area. A mid-year survey would probably reveal many more. At least some of the migrants have been found preserved in the glaciers, having perished in trying to cross the central mountains.


The survey team estimated that they saw and identified over 89 per cent of the possible lowland bird species, 88 per cent from the upper montane zone and 62 per cent in the subalpine ecosystem. But time and logistics prevented better results in the mid-montane area where only 21 per cent of the probable residents were recorded.


VII. Mammals

With many true endemic mammals, New Guinea holds a unique and fascinating place in the world. Here we have two of the three living kinds of monotreme echidnas, far more tree kangaroos than anywhere else, with murid rodents and fruit bats of the greatest richness in with world. Without question, New Guinea also can boast of the richest forest-dwelling marsupial fauna on earth, with many of the unusual species living in the Lorentz-Freeport area.  


Aside from Flannery’s work in the area, Freeport has sponsored but one brief mammal survey in its project area. Just to the east, the Lorentz Park has been rated by leading mammalogists as being the most important region for mammal diversity in the Australo-Pacific region. 64 mammals species have been identified so far, but no surveys have been carried out in the central and eastern portions of the park. Educated guesses put the total number to between 90 and 100 species. In the Freeport project area, a brief mammal survey yielded 35 species, of which 17 had not been previously recorded for the region. This study has now put the project area’s total mammalian population to 44 species, with eight of these having protected status: the Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii), a wallaby of the Macropodidae family called Brown Dorcopsis (Dorcopsis muelleri), Doria's Tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus dorianus), the Dusky Pandemelon (Thylogale brunii), the Spotted Cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus), the Silky Cuscus (Phalanger sericeus), the Common Cuscus (Phalanger intercastellanus) and the Ground Cuscus (Phalanger gymnotis).


In the most recent survey of the Lorentz, 42 mammal species were recorded, including 10 new records for the western half of the island. The Lorentz’s mammalian fauna includes the largest rat in the world, Hydromys goliath, along with two new species of giant rats: Mallomys aroaensis and M. istapantap and many different kinds of bats. Another new species of high elevation rodent, of the genus Stenomys, has also been identified. The area’s habitat also hosts the only two montremes found outside of Australia, both commonly called spiny anteaters and extensively hunted by the Papuans.


The most exciting discovery of the recent decades was a new species of tree kangaroo which eventually acquired the scientific name of Dentrolagus mbaiso. The animal is a large, black and white marsupial, found on the high elevations of the southern slope of the south-central mountain range, with some individuals on the north-west limits of the Lorentz Park. It has the shortest tail of all tree kangaroos, of little use as a counterbalance. But this is not needed much as the animal has become largely terrestrial. Its limb bones are slender in comparison with the other species. It shows a wonderful and unique facial pattern with a white spot on its forehead and a narrow white band around the muzzle and lower cheek, strikingly set off by the base black coloration. 


The possibility of a new species was first seen by Tim Flannery when he spotted a fur skin head-dress in the Kwiyawagi region in 1991. He did not recognize the fur and made inquiries from the Moni tribe of Papuans. It turned out that the animal was relatively common, thanks to its taboo status to some of the Moni. It was also familiar to the Amung, Dani and Nduga tribes. In the eastern part of its range, it lives on the rugged, rocky, south slopes of the mountains, above 3000 meters. To the west, where it is locally protected by traditional taboos, the dingiso lives on gentler slopes as well as to the north of the mountain crest line. While generally known as a tree kangaroo, the animal is largely terrestrial, with a weight of 8.5 to 9 kilos. A large animal like this would probably have been long exterminated by hunting, had it not received the traditional protection.


Videlis Zonggenau, who helped Flannery in his successful studies of this animals, told of being chided by his mother for speaking name of dingiso: ‘dingiso is the special meamumaya [animal with the face of man] for the Kobugao (his mother’s) clan’ If the animal is not respected, if it is hunted and eaten, calamities such as epidemics will befall on clan. Eating one is like eating a member of one’s own family. In spite of Videlis’ mother disapproval, the Moni most frequently use the name dingiso, with the alternate name of bondegezou. This name is made up of bonde, which means alpine forest and zou, meaning man. Flannery goes on to report that for half of the Moni, one of the two moieties, the dingiso the ancestral being from which they descended, so they can’t eat it or harm it. One Moni said ‘This animal is my nose’ meaning, figuratively, the center of my being. For the Zonggenau clan, eating the dingiso is permitted, but as it was forbidden to his mother’s clan, Videlis said it was also ‘my forbidden animal’. For those not forbidden to eat the dingiso, it can bring success to those destined to become leaders: only for these individuals will these dreams or visions become reality.


Extinction might be the fate of many marsupials in the area as tree kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots and various cuscus which are hunted for the insatiable Timika market. Elsewhere, the tree kangaroo, Dendrolagus goodfellowi has been quickly hunted out, even by small human populations. However, another species, the D. dorianus has proved much more resistant to over-hunting, perhaps due to its differing elevation distribution. Weapons used for hunting make for an important difference between the eastern and western half of the island in the survival potential of many mammals: in PNG firearms are relatively common while in Irian traditional weapons are wielded by Papuans, with the military the only exception to this general rule.


The 1997 Hatfindo survey for Freeport found 35 species, including 17 not previously confirmed for the region. With later additions, the total is now 45 mammals. The authors, with insufficient time at their disposal for extensive trapping, had to rely on local Papuan hunters. However, there was a lack of medium-sized and large mammals, considered the major gap in the survey. There were also problems in obtaining smaller dasyurids and the large fruit bats. Still, the survey added 17 species to the local list.


In the highlands the survey team saw the Long-beaked Echidna, Zaglossus bruijni, an egg-laying mammal surviving in spite of heavy hunting pressure. Four bats were listed, including two bent-wing bats (genus Minipoterus), two tube-nosed bats (Nyctimenes) and two blossom bats (Synconycteris). The four possums seen took in the Coppery Ringtail (Pseudochirops cupreus), the Plush-coated Ringtail (P. corinnae), the Long-tailed Pygmy (Cercartetus caudatus), and the Pygmy Ring-tailed (Pseudochirulus mayeri). Only one tree kangaroo was reported, Doria’s. The wallabies, only two, with perhaps including a new species, called for now Thylogale sp. nov. The team noted the recent extinction of the Dusky Pademelon, Thylogale brunii, probably since the early 1980s. The list continues with a striped bandicoot (Microperoryctes longicauda) and a speckled dasyure (Neophascogale lorentzii), a single quoll (Dasyurus albopunctatus), and two cuscus, the Silky (Phalanger sericeus) and an unidentified chap. The murids were represented by an assemblage of rats, including four from the genus Melomys, three from Rattus, a white-eared Giant, Arianus’ Rat (Stenomys omlichodes), plus an unidentified rat and a single mouse, Rummler’s (Coccyms). 


In the lowlands the relatively common Brown Dorcopsis Wallaby (Dorcopsis muelleri) was seen on sale at the Timika market. Out in the sticks and thanks to trapping as well as Kamoro hunters, the team was able to see three different species of cuscus, plus the Common Echympera (Echympera kelabu), the Striped Possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata), the Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps) and two murid, the Mottled-tailed Giant Rat (Uromys caudimaculatus) and the Cape York Rat (Rattus leucopus). 


Between what the team actually saw, trapped or read about from other zoological expeditions in the region, we have a fairly complete idea as to the diversity of the mammalian fauna in the Lorentz/Freeport sphere. The probable totals are 16 bats, 21 rodents and 35 marsupials.


Bigger is better

The Amung and Kamoro hunters, like any other self-respecting Papuan, want more bang for his bucks, or more aptly, the heaviest prey for his hunting effort. This applies to all mammals but definitely not to crocodiles. Very few Kamoro want to tangle with the few really big ones, occasionally sighted, in the four to five meter range. But mammals are easier prey. Aside from the crocodiles, the huge-clawed cassowary and the wild boar, hunters with even a modicum of experience need not fear any animals. Except for some tree kangaroos who will rip dogs and humans apart if given a chance.


Doria’s Tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus dorianus), with adults weighing between 7.5 and 14.5 kilos, are the largest native mammal on any huntress list of potential prey. It is found from the higher rainforest to 3300 meters. It is also the largest marsupial in the central mountain range of the island. The species does not show much in body coloration, as several other tree kangaroo species. The body tends to a uniform brown, with a long white tail. The animal eats leaves of epiphytic ferns and probably other leaves as well. Unlike many other animals, it is active during the day, although it rests from late morning to mid-afternoon. They are the most social of tree kangaroos, with each group dominated by an alpha male. Hunters have reported this animal killing hunting dogs by crushing the snout with a paw or ripping open the body. Humans are not exempt: deep lacerations, probably by this kangaroo, were reported in PNG. (Flannery, 1995)


The Common Echympera, (Echympera kelabu) is fairly common in the Freeport project area lowlands, as it is in all of New Guinea. (my photo???) Its weight, up to 1.5 kilos, makes it a most attractive family meal, especially the young which accumulate a delicious layer of subcutaneous fat. Papuans (except for bureaucrats) don’t worry about cholesterol: they are physically active and don’t eat fat every day. This animal feeds on an omnivorous diet which includes fruit, insect larvae and mollusks.  Considerably larger, the Brown Dorcopsis (Dorcopsis muelleri) weighed five kilos in the only specimen sampled. This concurs with my estimate of the weight of a live one brought by a group of Kamoro to their yearly festival in the year 2000. They were either going to sell it or eat it themselves.  (photo: white stripe or not? if so, D. hageni!)


The Common Spotted Cuscus (Spilocuscus maculatus) is the wild mammal species most often seen in Kamoro villages, reared as pets or for the pot. In the Freeport area, or within over 100 kilometers to the east or west, I have never seen a pure while one, all having varying degrees of brown or ginger mottling in the fur. Both the Kamoro and the Amung use the for headpieces, worn by important men during rituals. All the ones I saw were in the three to four kilo range, although the animal can reach six kilos. Flannery writes that it is present in all lowland areas below 1200 meters (except in woodlands and savannah), and it is often abundant where it occurs. In its metabolic rate and high insulating propreties of its fur, this cuscus presents a marked physiological parallel with the south American sloths. (Flannery, 1996) Its diet includes a variety of leaves and fruit, which I have seen them consume while in captivity, with bananas the most common item offered to them by the Kamoro. 


Three species of mountain rats merit special mention for their gigantic (for rats) size. All three are found in the higher elevations of the Freeport project area. All three are of the genus Mallomys, which means, appropriately enough, ‘wooly mouse’. The three are M. gunung, M. istapantap and M. aroaensis, the Alpine, the Subalpine and the De Vis’ Wooly-rats respectively. Each weights some two kilos, an enormous amount for this type of animal. The M. gunung ranges from 3500 to 4050 meters, the M. istapantap in the 1950 meter range and the M. aroensis from 1100 to 2700 meters.


The high mountain fauna had been surveyed earlier by an Australian team (Hope, 1976). The results included finding the monotreme Zaglossus bruijni as one of most common mammals at high altitude around the Jaya Massif but not common around other mountains. Marsupials included wallabies Thylogale brunii, possums Pseudocheirus spp, tree kangaroos Dendrolagus spp. bandicoots Peroryctes longicauda, and the pygmy possum Cercatetus caudatus. Native placentals found to live above 3000 meters were all murid rodents including the giant rat Mallomys rothchildii, true rats Rattus spp, water rats Hydromys spp. and others. A fair number of mammals were identified from bones only, found in high altitude rock shelters and left by hunters.


Lorentz Park mammals

The Lorentz area is rated by leading mammalogists as being the most important region for mammal diversity in the Australo-Pacific region. So far, 64 mammals have been identified, but as no surveys have been conducted in the central and eastern sections of the park, the total could reach between 90 to 100.


Of the 42 species recorded, 10 or almost 25% are new records for Irian, with two completely new species including a previously unknown tree kangaroo, Dendrolagus mbaiso. Not true to its name, the species is largely terrestrial. It is quite a large black and white animal, weighing up to 9 kg. In eastern part of range, restricted to the rugged, rocky, southwards facing upper slopes of the Maokop, above 3000m. In the west, where it is protected from hunting by traditional taboos, it inhabits gentler slopes as well as the northern area of the Cordillera. In this area, the northwestern sector of the park, the Pogapa area, the mbaiso is relatively common as some Moni regard it as sacred. The animal is familiar to the Moni, Amungkal, Dani and Nduga ethnic groups. First evidence for the existence of this tree kangaroo came from Flannery seeing its furred skin in Kwiyawagi in 1991. Aside from this new tree kangaroo, a new species of rodent has also been found at high elevation, of the genus Stenomys. The park is also home to two species of giant rats (Mallomys aroaensis and M. istapantap) and many bat species.


The following list is from the Indo-Australian expedition inside the Lorentz and its buffer zones, collected in 1994.



Dactylopila palpator                                     Long-fingered Triok

Dasyurus albopunctatus                                New Guinea Quoll

Dendrolagus dorianus notatus                      Doria’s Tree-kangaroo

Dendrolagus mbaiso                          new species

Dorcopsulus vanheurni                                 Small Dorcopsis

Microperorcyctes longicauda                        Striped Bandicoot

Neophascogale lorentzii                                Speckled Dasyure

Peroryctes raffrayana                                   Raffray’s Bandicoot

Petaurus breviceps                                        Sugar Glider

Phalanger carmelitae                        Mountain Cuscus

P. intercastellanus                                         Southern Common Cuscus

P. sericeus                                                     Silky Cuscus

Pseudochirops corinnae                                Plush-coated Ringtail

P. cupreus                                                      Coppery Ringtail

Pseudochirulus caroli                        Weyland Ringtail

P. mayeri                                                       Pygmy Ringtail



Anisomys imitator                                         Uneven-toothed Rat

Mallomys aroaensis                           Eastern Wooly Rat

M. istapantap                                     Subalpine Wooly Rat

M. rothschildi                                     Black Wooly Rat

M. gunung                                                     Alpine Wooly Rat

Melomys lorentzii                                          Lorentz Melomys

M. rubex                                                        Mountain Melomys

Rattus leucopus                                             Cape York Rat

R. rattus                                                         Black Rat

R. steinii                                                         Small Spiny Rat

Stenomys niobe                                              Moss Forest Rat

S. richardsoni                                     Glacier Rat

S. omlichodes                                     Adrianus Rat

Stenomys sp. Nov.                                         new species



Dobsonia magma                                          Bare-backed Fruit Bat

Nyctimene albiventer                         Common Tube-nosed Bat

N. certans                                                      Round-eared Tube-nosed Bat

Paranyctimene raptor                                   Unstriped Tube-nosed Bat

Rousettus amplexicaudatus               Rousette Bat

Syconcycteris australis                                  Common Blossom Bat

S. hobbit                                                        Moss Forest Blossom Bat                  



Hipposideros corynophyllus               Telefomin Horseshoe Bat

Miniopterus macrocneme                              Small Melanesian Bent-wing Bat

M. schreibersii                                               Common Bent-wing Bat

Pipistrellus collinus                                       Mountain Pipistrelle

Tadarida kuborensis                          New Guinea Mastiff Bat




Section three: The use of natural resources by the Kamoro


The Kamoro ethnic group, some 18,000 strong, live on the south coast of Irian Jaya. Their resource base covers the Arafura Sea, the mangroves and the tropical rain forest. While my study was not focused on biodiversity as such, a fair amount of information was obtained at to the presence of biota in the area covered. Two villages’ resource use was studied in more detail: Atuka on the coast and Iwaka inland (see map for locations). Atuka concentrates more on the sea, estuarine and mangrove resources while for Iwaka, due to location, it is the rain forest as well as the rivers for their needs. But while, logically enough, the Kamoro concentrate on the resources closest to their home, they traditionally travel to take advantage of another set of natural resources: inland if they live on the coast and vice versa. These trip, once every month or two, last from a few days to several weeks. Before the Dutch government and the Roman Catholic Church persuaded/forced them into permanent villages, their life style was much more semi-nomadic, moving between their two resources bases: coastal and rain forest. 


While hunting, fishing and gathering are year-round activities, many species are available only seasonally. This is especially true for rain forest fruits and vegetables, but also applies to fish species and game. For example, wild pigs are hunted year-round, but turtles are seasonal, as are several bird species.


A surprising variety of animals and plants are utilized, some seasonal, some year-round. This includes trees and plants for house construction, canoe-making and tools along with leaf-vegetables and seasonal fruits (we have only gathered limited information on medicinal plants as this is to be the focus of an upcoming ethno-botanical study). There are three major points to consider:

1. The opportunistic nature of most fishing, hunting and gathering.

2. Very slow but important adoption of small-scale agriculture by the Kamoro, leading to a wider variety and easier availability of vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fruit.

3. Changing life-styles - and resource utilization - brought about by the increasing importance of a cash economy to the Kamoro in the Timika area. The increasing availability of cash has led to a shift in consumption to rice and many packaged foods, with a concomitant decrease in the eating of sago, fish, game and forest fruits and vegetables.


Who are the Kamoro and where do they live?

The Kamoro are an ethno-linguistic group of Papuans living on the south coast of the island of New Guinea. Their homeland is in the Indonesian or western half of the island. The Kamoro claim a 300 kilometer-long chunk of the alluvial plain which starts at the foothills of the island’s central cordillera and runs to the sea, cut by many parallel rivers running north-south. This alluvial plain is very narrow (or even non-existent in places) in the west, where Kamoro-land starts at Etna Bay. The plain becomes increasingly wider towards the east. The area between the Owap, Sumapro and Cemara rivers (former Dutch name: Kasteel)  and the  Jets  (former Dutch name: Bloemen) to the east could be considered the eastern limit of the Kamoro (and related Sempan) territory, where Asmat lands begin.


In the west and central parts of Kamoroland, there is enough beach and flat shore for the settlements before the mangrove zone begins. The last coastal village is Atuka (except for the Sempan village of Otakwa).  Villages further east located inland, due to the restricted coastal space in front of the mangroves. In the Timika area and its vicinity, there are 9 inland Kamoro villages, plus about one thousand Kamoro (out of a total population of some 35,000) living in several of the relatively recently established transmigration sites. Inland villages are usually located beyond the inland edge of the mangroves, in the lower reaches of the tropical rain forest.


While the east-west extension of Kamoro lands is fairly clear, the northern boundary is disputed by the mountain groups. During the past, with warfare and no economic pressures, the northern fringe of the alluvial plain was an unpopulated no-man’s land, with occasional hunting by both sides. Today, with population and economic pressures, especially in the Freeport project area, the Kamoro claims of this area are in conflict with those of the Amungme, the mountain group living to the north of the Kamoro. This is especially true when there is any possibility of obtaining funds from Freeport for land use, or when valuable timber, much in demand in Timika, is involved. A traditions-based compromise might set the boundary at the 100 or 200 meter contour line or some other



Study focus and comparison with PNG

The study focused on the essential flora and fauna used by the Kamoro. It is by no means an exhaustive list. The Kamoro are opportunistic hunters, gatherers and fishing folk. They will eat a wide variety of animals, although some of the larger species are definitely preferred. If the type of wood favored to build a canoe and it is not available or too far away, they will make do with another species. To give an idea as to the scope of useful plant life, in the neighboring country of Papua New Guinea, some 211 wild plant species used for food have been listed, with many more additions likely in the future. (Note: these include highland as well as lowland and coastal species from an area much larger than our focus.) Similarly, also in PNG, there are 252 medicinal plant species, over 100 for building purposes, 43 for rafts and canoes (18 for hulls), 78 for rituals and magic, 73 for tools and weapons, 75 for personal adornment, 44 for hunting and fishing, 46 for string and bark cloth.... and the list goes on. Of course, the Kamoro do not use all of these plants, partially because they do not have access to the highland vegetation, partially because they do not need to use every possible plant as population pressure is very low in comparison to their total area.


Perhaps a more useful comparison would be with a more restricted area of a similar eco-system. A study was made in the mangrove and estuarine region of PNG’s Gulf Province in 1977 (Liem and Haynes, 1977). ‘At least 240 species of vertebrate species were recorded in the deltaic system, of which 174 species are important for subsistence.’ The hunting area covered was approximately 100,000 hectares with a population of some 800. A total of 71 grams of animal products were consumed per day on the average. The list of the top 25 wildlife species, by order of decreasing importance, was as follows:

1. Cuscus (Phalanger maculatus). 2. Wild pig (Sus scrofa). 3. Torres Strait Pigeon (Ducula spilorrhoa). 4. Black Duck (Anas superciliosa). 5. Flying Foxes (Pteropus spp.). 6. Common scrubfowl (Megapodius freycinet). 7. Double-wattled Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius). 8. Blackbilled Bush Turkey (Talegalla fuscirostris). 9. Bandicoot (Echymipera spp.). 10. Australian Pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus). 11. Common Monitor Lizard (Varanus indicus). 12. Sulfur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita). 13. Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia). 14. Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon (Ducula rufigaster). 15. Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). 16. Possum (Dactylopsila spp.) 17. Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps). 18. Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). 19. Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus novaeguinea). 20. Magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata). 21. Common Water Rat (Hydromys chrysogaster). 22. Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris). 23. Australian Darter (Anhinga rufa). 24. Dugong (Dugong dugong). 25. Superb Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus superbus).


While we find this list useful for comparison with the Kamoro area’s ecosystem, it is puzzling why no fishes, crustaceans or mollusks are included in the list. Nor is there any explanation as to whether the animals listed are used exclusively for local home consumption or if some of them are sold.


Three essential eco-systems

All the Kamoro make extensive use of three ecosystems which blend into one another: the sea and littoral, the mangroves and then the tropical rain forest. Of course, things are not so simple. For the Freeport Project Area, where the surveys referred to above were undertaken, seven separate eco-zones were identified. These are as follows (the percentages only apply to the project area, not to Kamoroland as a whole):

1. Beaches: Puting land system, 1%

2. Tidal swamps: Kajapah land system, 23% (this includes the Nypa palm areas)

3. Meander Belt: Saupauwar land system, 1.4%

4. Peat Swamp: Padango, Gambut and Iwaka land systems, 25%

5. Braided Rivers/Alluvial Valleys: Aimau land system, 0.27%

6. Dry Lowland Evergreen Rain Forest/Alluvial Fan: Timika land system, 21%

7. Heath forests/dissected terraces further divided into three land systems, 11%


The Kamoro utilize the areas accessible by canoe and trails in the jungle. The distance of canoe travel to the interior is dependent on water level, and, obviously, on the size of the canoe. A heavy rainfall and a light canoe could mean several more kilometers beyond the reach of a large, outboard-powered craft, depending on land slopes and dead trees stuck in the water. During low water, canoes are often prevented from traveling far upstream by a tangle of logs trapped on the riverbed.


Prior to the intervention of the church (Roman Catholic) and state (Dutch first, then Indonesian) starting in 1925, the Kamoro were semi-nomadic taking full advantage of the three eco-systems in their territory. They lived in small groups, based on the taparu (with similarities to the clan) and lived in very simple shelters, easy to assemble and disassemble quickly. Each taparu controlled a sago area near a river system, between the mountains and the sea, shifting freely between the three eco-systems. This free-spirit life-style was anathema to church and state, state, so these powerful outside entities cajoled/forced/convinced the Kamoro to set up permanent villages, preferably on the coast, to provide easy access to government and church personnel. But as the products of all the three eco-systems were still essential for survival, the Kamoro were often forced to leave these villages for extended periods of time. The new villages were formed with several taparu lumped together, some willingly, some reluctantly.


Malaria was another factor which probably also influenced the Kamoro’s reluctance to live in permanent coastal villages. While two different species of mosquitoes are malaria vectors on the coast and inland, according to Dr. Steve Wignal, the former head of Freeport’s malaria control program, there tends to be less malaria inland than on the coast. But this is true only if inland patches are not extensively cleared for agriculture, a profession which the Kamoro abhor. But of course in recent years, with extensive transmigration of Javanese and Papuan farmers, large inland areas around Timika have been cleared for both the settlements and for crops.


The Kamoro make use of a large number of plants and animals from near and far, with a few items are absolutely essential: fish, sago, wild pigs, crustaceans, mollusks, trees for canoes and a wild fruit-and-vegetable complex of varying composition. While fish are found in rivers all the way inland to the mountains, they are much more abundant in the estuaries and just offshore. The sago trees are located in a zone which just begins just beyond the normal tidal flux. Wild pigs and other game start at the sago zone and reach inland to the highlands. While a fruit-and-vegetable mix is available in the coastal area, this is mix is more varied and abundant in the rain forest. The best wood for canoes are found inland, along with just about all the wild fruit trees. 


Plant resource utilization

While I have compiled a list of some 140 types of plants used by the Kamoro, the list is far from complete. I would estimable that this represents less that half of what the Kamoro use. As there was to be a follow-up study of medicinal plants, I did not cover these. Before obtaining the local names of various plants, I devised several logical categories from previous knowledge of the culture: canoes, construction, food, implements etc... I then asked my informants to name the best and most common plants in each category. Later, I returned with Pak Markus Jitmao, an excellent field taxonomist, who works in Freeport’s environmental department. Along with some Kamoro, we traveled by river and did some jungle trekking as the informants pointed out the trees and plants on my previous lists. For each one, Pak Markus gave me the scientific names. Most of the mangrove vegetation identifications had been previously done with my informants, illustrated field guides and looking around the swamps. 


This section was kindly read and revised by Dr. Bob Johns from the Kew Gardens, as well as by Wanda Ave and Marcel Polak of the National Herbarium Nederland (Holland).


Many kinds of plants have multiple uses. While below we list each plant’s primary purpose, other important uses are mentioned as well.


Trees used for canoes

Canoes are made from a dozen or so tree species. While steel tools are now used both to cut and hollow out the trees, hardwoods are seldom chosen. This is partially due to traditions harking back to the use of stone tools (in extensive use up to some 80 years ago) and amount of work required. Thus, most of the canoes everywhere are made quickly, from lighter woods, and last some two to five years with normal use. The making of a canoe for one’s in-laws is one of the very few items at least partially retained from the traditional bride price obligations.


The best and/or the most frequently used trees are as follows: 

Araucaria daumora (?cunninghamii),  said to be the strongest wood but hard to find and    very difficult to make a canoe from this tree because of its hardness. This tree            was also called damar in Indonesian which usually refers to Agathis spp Buchanania sp

Callopylum inophylum

Calophyllum papuanum - also used for construction

Calophyllum inophyllum - also used in construction and for fishing spears

Campnosperma brevipetiolata - the most frequently used species

Hopea novoguineensis - said to contain an edible larva

Palaquium lobbianum  - also used for construction and occasionally for paddles Octomeles sumatrana - canoes from this wood said to last up to seven years; some        Kamoro maintain that this is the best canoe wood while others say it rots fast             when wet.

Paraserianthes falcataria

Terminalia complanata

Terminalia sp. (Terminalia copelandii ?) - said to be the strongest tree, with canoes made   from this wood lasting up to 10 years; contain an edible grub

            This species was also called damar in Indonesian (see above)

Vatica rassak - not used for canoes; almost all paddles are made from this wood

Xylocarpus moluccensis - also for house posts and furniture; occasionally for paddles;          medicinal use; very strong wood, said to be similar in strength to what locally       is referred to as ironwood (Intsia bijuga and I. sumatrana).

Xylocarpus sp. - used as above


Aside from the above tree species, there are at least a dozen more which we were unable to identify with scientific names.


There seems to be some overlap with some of the main woods used for canoes in PNG. One source (Helen Hughes and Nancy Viviani in the Encyclopedia of Papua and New Guinea, p. 911) gives four genera: Octomeles, Calophyllum, Canarium and Cedrela, (perhaps this last one refers to Toona ?)of which the first two are also used by the Kamoro. The Encyclopedia tells of the kusta nut tree (Parinari glaberrimum), which provides a valuable resin for caulking canoes: the preparation involves shredding and pounding the fibrous tissues of the fruit are shredded and pounded with water. Another source (J. M. Powell, quoted in Paijmans 1976, pp. 158-159) lists 19 species of wood used for canoes in New Guinea, including the satellite islands such as New Britain. Due to insufficient data, his list only includes five species from the western part of the island, then called Irian Jaya, now Papua or Papua Barat. Four of these species are from the Paniai Lakes (ex-Wissel): Calophyllum sp., Macaranga sp., Podocarpus sp. and Toona ciliata (syn. Cedrela toona). The fifth species, from Kimaan or Dolak Island (ex-Hendrik Frederick, ex-Yos Sudarso) is the sago palm, Metroxylon sagu. From the PNG side, the list contains Albizia falcataria, Alstonia sp., Althoffia pleiostigma, Artocarpus sp., Campnosperma sp., Canarium sp., Cinnamomum sp., Erythrina sp., Ficus sp., Gmelina sp., Hibiscus sp., Nauclea coadunata, Octomeles sumatrana, Premna obtusifolia and Thespesia populnea


Building materials

The all-important sago tree, Metroxylon sagu, aside from providing the staple food, also serves for as building material. Sago leaves are the preferred thatching while the frond midrib serves as house walls (usually referred to by the eastern Indonesian word gaba-gaba) on the coast. Some house posts are also occasionally made from sago trees but other species are preferred. The sago leaf midrib are used for wall partitions and thatching made from sago leaves.  The main binder for houses, coastal and inland, is the rattan, Calamus sp.


Osbornia octodonta  - wood for construction

Rhizophora mucronata - wood for construction; when dry, red inside; also used for

            sago pounders ax handles and pig spears; houses the tambelo, a widely eaten

            bivalve mollusk, of the same family as the boring ships’ worms.

R. apiculata - same use as above’ leaves and bark for wrapping tambelo found inside.

Bruguiera cylindrica, and B. parviflora - for construction, including floor

            supports; home for tambelo; firewood; house and garden fencing

            for traditional karapao structure

Xylocarpus moluccensis  - bark used for floors, house beams and rafters

Flagellaria indica - fibers formerly used for tying down roofing&rafters (now: nails)

Palmae spp. - house floors and brooms

Calophyllum papuanum  - for construction

Donax cannaeformis - for fastening pondok roof and sides

Intsia palembanica, I. bijuga (local ‘ironwood’) -  for construction

Bruguiera cylindrica - for house posts

Barringtonia asiatica - for construction: rafters and other inner roof struts

Lumnitzera littorea - for house posts and rafters

L. racemosa - for house posts and rafters

Osbornia octodonta - this is considered the strongest wood of the mangroves; is used for      construction beams and for docks

Heritiera littoralis - for house posts


The above list comes from the coast. Inland, the mix is somewhat different:

Aside from Calamus sp., other vines used for binding include Flagellaria indica and Mussaenda sp.

For the main posts and beams, mangrove wood is sometimes used:

Bruguiera gymnorrhiza  and B. parviflora

Pometia pinnata for main posts and beams

Calophyllum papuana for main posts and beams

Buchanania macrophylla  for main posts and beams; also for canoes

Gymnostoma papuanum ( ? ex-Casuarina papuanum) for main posts and beams

Oncosperma tigillaria - its bark used for flooring, along with two other  palm species, Oncosperma spp, both called nibung palm in Indonesian. The horizontal partitions for the outside walls and also some of the posts are made from Pometia sp


In PNG, base stumps are made of Intsia bijuga and Albizia procera, with mangroves more prevalent on the coast. For split-palm flooring, several palms genera come into use: Gulubia, Gronphyllum, Orania and Caryota. Only the last of these is (probably) used by the Kamoro. For walls, the PNG people also use sago palm frond midribs, along with the wood Albizia sp. Thatching of dwellings is done with fronds of Nypa fruticans which is said to be more durable than thatching made from sago frond midribs. Bindings are made from various rattans.


The Kamoro take off from home for a day or a few weeks to exploit the natural resources from an eco-system different from the one close to their village. Away from their villages, they build temporary shelters, traditionally with the broad, thick leaves of Pandanus tectorius. Aside from the P. tectorius, whose leaves are also used to weave mats, several other pandanus species are used by the Kamoro for mats or temporary dwellings.


Pandanus conoideus (also, perhaps, P. polycephalus) is used for making tikar mats but its essential use if for food. Its’ large, elongated, oily, red pedicarp is boiled, squeezed and eaten with sago. The pedicarp is made up of very small syncarps, each with a small amount of red flesh surrounding the fibrous portion enclosing the seed. The syncarp is boiled so that the fleshy portions come away. The literature tell us that there are wild forms of P. tectorius which can be used by cooking and then straining the pedicarp of the ripe fruits: these contain large amounts of calcium oxalate crystals which can irritate the mouth unless broken down by heating.


 In the Amungme area on the southern slopes of the Sudirman Mountain Range, there are three most useful edible nut-bearing pandanus species: Pandanus julianetti, P. brosimos and P. conoideus. The last of these species, the red fruit pandanus, grows at lower elevation (i.e. Kamoro-land). The two other species are quite similar, and produce highly appreciated edible nuts. The Amungme, experts in the matter, use different names to distinguish various cultivars of koeng, their common name for the domesticated species P. julianetti which they plant in groves. P. brosimos is the other species commonly found in the elevations where the Amungme live. This species also produces a fine, nutritious nut but it is claimed that the tree does not grow when planted by humans. Through endless experimentation, the Amungme have produced more than 50 kinds of pandanus trees, man-made varieties called cultivars which- as they are of the same species - can still cross-breed, promoting bio-diversity and thus ensuring against devastation from diseases, pests of other calamities.


J. M. Wormsley, p. 230, in the Encyclopedia of Papua and New Guinea tells us that for pandanus, ‘The fruiting head consists of an aggregate of syncarps. Each syncarp is a very fibrous cover for the several seeds. The fruit break up on drying into the syncarps, but the latter can only be opened by force, or by smoking or heating. Pandanus conoideus produces an elongated, cylindrical fruit with very small syncarps, each with a small amount of red flesh surrounding the fibrous portion enclosing the seed. The syncarps are boiled so that the fleshy portion comes away to make a type of soup.’


There are many pandanus species used by the Kamoro but my field plant taxonomist, Pak Markus, was not up on his pandanus ids. Of course, I was far worse. We need a pandanus man...or a woman would do just as well.  So we can only quote Wormsley in the Encyclopedia again: ‘The botany of Pandanus in New Guinea can best be described as confused.’ We add that this applies to palms as well. New Guinea has about 30 genera of palms with some 270 species and 95% of these are endemic!!! 


Wood used for carvings and drums

Most carvings made for sale are usually of many species of soft, easily worked woods. The most important traditional carvings are the totem-pole like mbitoro which recently deceased ancestors inhabit during a ritual. Each village only used one species of tree for this caving. These include Myristica tubiflora, Sterculia ampla, Horsfieldia irja (?) (the fruit of this tree is also eaten), Sterculia ampla and Myristica sulcata. For drums, all Kamoro use Hibiscus tiliaceus or the similar Thespesia populnea. A damar-like pitch used on the lizard skin playing surface is made from Gochidion sp. whose daubs are heated to tighten the playing surface to achieve proper tension. Another kind of pitch, perhaps from Araucaria cunninghamii (? Agathis labillardieri ?), called damar, is also used for the same purpose as above, tightening the playing surface of drums.


There seems to be little overlap with Papuan New Guinea. For PNG, Paijmans mentions Pterocapus indicus for making drums. The Encyclopedia of PNG tells us that Alstonia scholaris is used to carve bowls, for durable carving to sell to tourists they use Intsia bijuga and Pterocarpus indicus, with the occasional use of Vitex cofassus and ebony, Diospyros spp. Tifa-type drums (hand-held and covered with lizard or snake skin) are made from the rosewood Pterocarpus indicus while the large, upright slit gongs, on the Sepik and the Ramu from Vitex cofassus. Paijmans mentions Albizia spp. as a wood often used for carving.


Sago making, hunting and fishing

A metal ax is used everywhere today for chopping down the tree; when the store-bought handle wears out, a new one is made from Endospermum moluccanum. This tree also has an edible fruit. The handle of the sago pounder can be made from Calophyllum macrocarpum (?) or Diospyros maritima or Ceriops tagal with the cross-piece from the last named species or Garcinia sp. (?Pentapalangium sp.). the roots of the Hibiscus tiliaceous or Thespecia populnea as well as Melicope (?Euodia) elleryana are used for machete/parang handles,


Two species of vines, Derris eliptica and D. elegans are used as fish poison. Fishing spear shafts are made from a bamboo, Schizostachylum steud or Schizostachyum lima. The wood from the tree Calophyllum inophyllum is also used for fishing spears as well as for canoes, construction, nets and traps. The spear heads  are bound to the shaft with rattan, Calamus sp. When streams clear after a few days without rain, men and boys dive with a short metal spear and home-made goggles made from Endospermum moluccanum.


The traditional oval dip nets are used mainly by the ladies. The supporting edge is made of rattan, Calamus sp. but the mesh is now made from store-bought string. Formerly, the mesh of the net was made from the bark of the hibiscus, Hibiscus tiliaceus or Thespesia populnea. The traditional nets were reinforced by exudates from Rhizophora mucronata, R. stylosa and R. mucronata. The curtain-like blocking device, a fish barrier or mat weir, set across tidal streams at high tide, is often called sero in Indonesian, built of gaba-gaba, the central shaft of the Metroxylon sagu palm frond.


For hunting pigs, spears are made from the local ‘ironwoods’, Intsia bijuga, I. palembanica. The blades, locally forged from scrap metal, are tied with rattan, Calamus sp. These spears can also be made from Calophyllum macrocarpum. Bows are cut from palm wood, perhaps the pinang Pinanga spp. or related palms. Arrows are made of Sacharum sp. as well as bamboo, Schizostachyum sp. (? steud). Most hunting is with noose snare traps, jerat in Indonesian featuring a slip knot, made from store-bought string or rope, the thickness depending on the size of the animal to be caught. In former times, the string/rope for these snares was made from Hibiscus tiliaceus. For bait, pieces of Metroxylon sagu are used.


In PNG, bows of bamboo and palm are widely used. The most common palm bows are from Caryota sp.  and Gulubia sp. Bows are strung with bamboo or rattan cane, Calamus sp. Bowstrings are also from twisted string made from Hibiscus tiliaceus. The arrows are made from hardwood, bone or bamboo. The arrow shafts invariably from stem or inflorescence rachis of one of the larger grasses: Pharmites karka, Miscanthus floridulus, Themeda intermedia and possibly Thysanolaena (? maxima) probably latifidia.  Inflorescences of Saccharum sp. are said to lack sufficient strength. Arrow tips are made from palm stem wood, along with various hardwoods, and the bamboo Gigantochloa novoguineensis.


Forest fruits, leaves and nuts:

The following trees produce fruit eaten seasonally: Garcinia sp., Pentaphalangium pachicarpum (?), Inocarpus fagiferus, Ficus adenosperma, Licula sp. Horsfieldia irja, Baccaurea sp., Garcinia sp. (?Pentapalangium sp.)  with a small fruit; its wood is also used for ax handles, Myristica fatua, Myristica tubiflora  - yellow fruit (called ‘pala hutan’ or wild nutmeg), Syzygium speciosa, Syzygium malaccensis, Syzygium sp, (fruit called ‘jambu’ in Indonesian), Pandanus conoideus, and Alpinia sp. The fruit of various species of Artocarpus (A. communis and probably others) are also eaten, especially the breadfruit A. altilis; the scrapings from this fruit is used as an ingredient of papeda (sago porridge). The tree Pommetia pinnata (matoa on Indonesian) and similar ones produce fruit of various colors, all eaten during in season. The fruit of various species of rattan, Calamus spp. are also eaten. While this list may represent the most common wild fruits eaten, there are very probably many more, perhaps twice or more the number of species given above.


The nut of Cocos nucifera is widely eaten as well as being sold for cash. The leaves, fibers and trunk of this tree have many uses. Both the fruit and the nuts of the ketapang tree, Terminalia catappa, are also eaten in season. There is no commercial use made of the palm Nypa fructicans, for making vinegar, sugar or an alcoholic drink. But the nuts, which look like miniature coconuts, are eaten, the wood is occasionally used to make the walls for houses and the unopened leaves used for wrapping tobacco for home-made cigarettes. For healing stingray wounds, the leaf rib of the nypa is burned and then stuck in the opening made by the ray’s tail. Other wild nuts consumed include those of Baccaurea papuana, Canarium decumanum (the gapip nut), Terminalia catappa (ketapang or Java almond) and Spondias dulcis (in Indonesian: ‘kedondong hutan’), where both the nut and the fruit are eaten.


The leaves of wild ferns are serve as vegetables, but I was unable to find the scientific name(s) for most of them. Pangium edule called ‘sayur pangi’ in Indonesian (must be cooked first: the seeds, like all parts of the tree, contain cyanogenic glucosites which release hydrocyanic acid on digestion; it needs boiling for over an hour, or baking; it

is most usual to crush the seeds and leave them in running water for a day or more, then boil them well.) The young leaves of the fern Cibotium barometz are also used as food. The most popular vegetable gathered from the wild (and sometimes planted near villages) comes from the genemo tree, Gnetum gnemon, (melinjo or belinjo) whose young leaves are consumed as vegetables, especially around April. The bark of this tree is used for bags and making traditional clothes and its fruits and flower, boiled, and eaten as well.     


From literature, it is known that the leaves of the wild fern tree, Cyathea, is widely consumed among many groups in Papua, including the Kamoro, but the species (one or more) have eluded identification (for me, anyway). In Indonesian, this vegetable is called ‘sayur paku’. Another type of fern, Diplazium esculentum (Swartz) is eaten in Ambon and perhaps by the Kamoro as well.  (F.S. A. De Clercq, quoted by E. M. Beekman in his notes, p. 409, to The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet by Georgius Everhardus Rumphius, Yale University Press, 1999.) In PNG, the following genera of fern are eaten: Asplenium, Athyrium, Cyclosorus, Diplazium and Pteris.


Young shoots of various plants are consumed as vegetables: bamboo shoots of Schizostachyum (?steud) and those of various palms, including Caryota sp. the nibung palm and Metroxylon sagu, the sago palms. This tree’s trunk provides the Kamoros’ staple carbohydrate. There are several kinds of mushrooms consumed but we could identify only one with some degree of certainty: Chionanthus macrophylla (?).


Planted fruit and vegetables

The Kamoro are not farmers, unlike the mountain Papuans. But under continuos encouragement and pressure ever since Dutch times, they have planted some fruit trees and vegetables. Some are sold but most are for home consumption. The literature states that in pre-colonial days, the Kamoro only planted tobacco, along with a few other vegetables (not specified). Tobacco is no longer raised as it is easier to buy tobacco and factory-made cigarettes. Today, the most commonly planted fruit and vegetables are: chili, shallots, sugar cane, oranges, limes, pomelo, bamboo shoots, breadfruit, coconuts, breadfruit, jackfruit, corn, mango, watermelon, various gourds, papaya, tomato, peanuts, pineapple, sunset hibiscus, water convolvulus (water spinach), taro, eggplant, sweet potatoes, amaranth, yard-long bean (or long bean), manioc/cassava (the leaves are an important, year-round vegetable, singkong in Indonesian), bananas (fruit and flower). Most of these plants have been recently introduced. Bob Johns (personal communication) indicated as native only Amaranthus sp, Ipomoea aquatica, and Pinnanga spp. Ipomoea batatas was an early introduction from the Americas, perhaps by Europeans (Portuguese or Spaniards), perhaps earlier.


Abelmoschus manihot, sunset hibiscus, daun belendir/sayur gedi

Allium cepa shallot/red onion, bawang merah

Amaranthus sp. amaranth, sayur bayam [Note: in PNG, it’s A. tricolor and A. hybridus]

Ananas comosus, pineapple, nanas

Annona muricata soursop, sirsak

Arachis hypogea  peanuts, ground beans, kacang tanah

Artocarpus heterophyllus, jackfruit, nangka

Averrhoa bilimbi, bilimbi or cucumber tree, belimbing asam (this sour fruit is eaten by          pregnant women; the usual variety of this fruit is Averrhoa carambola, star          fruit, belimbing manis)

Brassica juncea Indian mustard, Chinese mustard, vegetable mustard, sawi

Brassica oleracea cabbage (white, red or savoy) kol

Capsicum annuum and/or C. frutescens  capiscum pepper, chili, lombok, cabe

Capsicum annuum and/or C. frutescens, chili, cabe

Citrus (? sp), orange,  jeruk manis

Citrus aurantifolia, lime,  jeruk nipis

Citrus maxima,  pomelo, jeruk Bali

Citrus reticulata, mandarin or tangerine  jeruk keprok, jeruk jepun, jeruk maseh

Citrus spp. citrus fruit, jeruk

Cocos nucifera, coconuts, coconut, kepala

Colocasia esculenta taro, old cocoyan, keladi

Cucubita spp. gourds of various species, labu

Durio zibethinus, durian

Ipomoea aquatica water convolvulus or water spinach, kangkung

Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato, betatas, petatas, ubi jalar

Lycopersicon esculentum, tomato (perhaps a cultivar or a different species...), tomat

Mangifera indica, mango, mangga

Manihot esculenta, manioc, cassava, kasbi, singkong, ubi kayu

Phaseolus vulagris green bean, common bean, kacang buncis

Pinanga spp  as well as, perhaps, Arenga pinnata,and Aren sagu (?), young shoots eaten    raw or cooked, sugar palm, aren palm, pinang palm, aren, enau

Piper pacatum (or P. betle ?), for chewing with the betel nut  sirih

Salacca zalacca, salak

Sechium edule chayote, labu cina

Solanum melongena ,eggplant, terong

Vigna unguiculata, long bean/yard-long bean, kacang panjang

Zea mays, corn, jagung


The following species, also planted, are considered indigenous by the Kamoro, although we have reservation to give this status to the watermelon. 


Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit, sukun

Citrullus lanatua watermelon, semangka (sometimes wrapped and cooked over open         fire, said to be delicious with this preparation)

Musa spp. bananas, pisang (introduced species/cultivars are usually called by the

            common Indonesian name, pisang [Note: in PNG, the  most common planted

            bananas are Musa acuminata and M. balbisiana]

Saccharum officinarum (with many varieties). sugar cane, tebu.  Note: sugar cane    originates from New Guinea.

Syzygium spp. rose apple, jambu hutan [Note: jambu applies to many different fruits, mostly from the Syzygium genus. Some of the species from PNG include S.        malaccense, S. aquae, S. jambos and S. javanica] Elsewhere, the most common           jambu is Syzygium aqueum, which goes under the English common name of   water apple, Indonesian jambu air.


At edge of mangrove zone, next to freshwater swamps which can tolerate some tidal inundation and when submerged provide good habitat for aquatic fauna. These plants include the sword plant, Cryptocoryne ciliata (the only submerged mangrove species) whose dried leaves are smoked by some Kamoro.


Plants of various uses

Acanthus ilicifolius - stimulate a newborn to cry; teaching dogs to hunt

Acrostichum aureum - tambelo mollusk wrapper; string; leaves for wrapping fish

Acrostichum speciosum  (? or, A. aureum) - leaf for wrapping tambelo; stem for used for     making string

Aegialitis annulata - firewood

Aegiceras corniculatum - root for parang handle; fruit for play ear-rings

Artocarpus altilis -  fruit eaten; used as a glue; also used for red coloring and firewood.

Avicennia marina (?) - firewood, good as it dries very fast

Barringtonia racemosa - leaves for wrapping tambelo; occasional fish poison

Bombax ceiba, kapok hutan in Indonesian; stuffing for mattresses and pillows

Calamus sp. -  all purpose rope; large head and body masks are made from rattan

Cerbera manghas - leaves and branches burned to drive mosquitoes away. 

Cocos nucifera, coconuts...eating, sale, leaves for brooms.... lots more uses

Crinum asiaticum - for headaches: leaves boiled for patient’s bath

Crinum pendunculatum (?) - for wrapping tambelo and mollusks

Crotalaria striata - layer of leaves and twigs under mounds as fertilizer

Derris trifoliata - string for tying crabs; bindings for temporary houses;

Excoecaria agallocha - the leaves, heated in the fire, are applied to the body to relieve         fever; the smoke from its leaves and branches drive spirits/ghosts away

Ficus elastica - bark for blanket, child-carrier, clothes

Flagellaria indica - vine for binding

            handles; crushed leaves for healing poison wound as from stingrays, catfish      (but not for snake bites); tips of young leaves as siri substitute for chewing with           betel nut, bark and leaves mixed with hot water and drunk for easing birth;             leaves as fertilizer under sand mounds.

Hibiscus tiliaceus (waru) - string, rope, parang handles; inner bark for: string bags,    traditional clothes, tying together kapiri leaves; roots for parang

Hopea nodosa - wood with edible grubs

Ipomoea pes-caprae - heated leaves for massage

            leaf rib burned and stuck where pain from stingray; anti-fever also

            leaves for wrapping tobacco for cigarettes; for poisoning fish. 

Nypa fruticans - ‘nut’ eaten; hut walls, wrapping grubs and mollusks

Pandanus conoideus - for ‘tikar’ sleeping mats

Pandanus tectorius - for tikar (mats)

Pimelodendron amboinicum (? pinnatum) - wood with edible grubs

Scaevola taccada (?) - fruit, leaves and branches, when combined with the proper     knowledge can calm the seas

Schizostachyum (?steud) - for makings fences and combs; shoots eaten

Sonneratia caseolaris and S. alba; firewood and children

Spinifex littoreus- for playing by throwing up the top part of the plant into the wind

Terminalia catappa - ketapang nuts and fruit; the bark is boiled and ingested for advanced syphilis

Thespesia populnea - same uses as the hibiscus tree above

            unopened leaves for wrapping tobacco for home-made cigarettes

            use the fruit for spinning tops; occasionally for house construction

            while being smoked                                                                   

Widelia biflora - leaves boiled and water drunk to kill intestinal worms

            [Derris sp. and Gnetum latifolium are used for committing suicide in PNG].


Plants for coloring, clothing and decorations

The Kamoro utilize mangrove bark for a deep shade of red while for an orange-brown, they use an ocherous clay. Plant roots give colors varying from red to yellow and green is obtained by mixing leaves with crushed lime shells. Black comes from the paste electrolyte inside old batteries, the ABC’s carbon-zinc, not the alkaline which are filled with plastic membrane with very caustic substances.


In some parts of PNG, yellow comes from Celosia argentea, black from Adenostema hirsutum; red from   introduced teak, Tectona grandis and blue-green from Panicum sarmentosum. A red dye is made from the introduced Bixa orellana.


Paijmans mentions for PNG paints and dyes from the roots of Morinda citrifolia and Curcuma domestica, fruits of Burckella sp. Leea indica and Pandanus conoideus, the pulp surrounding the seeds of Bixa orellana, seeds of Areca spp. Pittosporum pullifolium, Gardenia sp. and Lactuca indica, crushed leaves and stems of Plectranthus sp., Iresine herbstii and Coleus spp., and petals of Bidens spTagetes sp. and Melastoma malabathricum; red paint is made from the bark of Glochidion sp. and from the sap of an Acalypha sp. The sap of Rhizophora spp., coconut oil or oil from the seeds of Aleurites moluccana is used as a base for paints and for charcoal.


The ‘traditional’ blouse-type tops for women (they were formerly bare-breasted and were forced/cajoled/persuaded to cover up by church and state) are made from the plaited bark of the Hibiscus tiliaceus. A type of hat, this one really traditional, was and still is made from the same material. In Iwaka, the material used for the same purpose is from unidentified trees, whose bark was also used for making baskets. Skirts worn at ceremonies are made from strips of sago leaves. Thicker skirts, such as those worn by masked figures, are from coconut leaves. Formerly, tapa/bark cloth was made from Gnetum gnemon, as well as from Ficus and other trees found inland.


In PNG, the bark or tapa cloth was made from several species of trees not used (as far as we know) by the Kamoro: Ficus nodosa, F. adenosperma, and a bush (?) Artocarpus sp. which is specified as not being the breadfruit tree. The only mention of clothing in the same reference (Wormsley, p. 908-909, Encylopedia of PNG) is to pandanus leaves being sewn together to make rain capes (the Kamoro just hold a large leaf, often that of the banana tree) and various grasses, especially Imperata, for grass skirts.


Several seeds have wide-spread use among the Kamoro, of which the best known is Jacob’s tears, Coix lacryma-jobi, a tall wild (and, elsewhere, occasionally semi-cultivated) grass with silver-grey, ovoid, hard-skinned seeds. These seeds can be crushed to yield a type of flour, but this is not known to the Kamoro. Less used but still known are the red seeds of the tree Adenanthera pavonina. These seeds were extensively used by the Kamoro in the past for necklaces. Elsewhere, the seeds were formerly used to weigh gold, silver and diamonds as they have a very narrow weight range.


As an interesting footnote, the Adenanthera seeds comes from a minor commercial timber tree, traded under the name of coralwood. The seeds go under the English common names of coral bean or saga bean. The second designation comes from Java and it is also used in the rest of Indonesia and Malaysia. The genus Adenanthera includes 12 species, occurring from Sri Lanka, through Southeast Asia, Malesia and on to northern Australia and the Solomon Islands. The timber is used for bridge and house construction, flooring and paving blocks and vehicle bodies as well as for furniture and making charcoal. It is often planted as an ornamental and as a shade tree in coffee and rubber plantations. Its young leaves can be eaten as a vegetable. The red dye from the wood has been used for dying clothes and the forehead spots of Brahmins. The bark also contains saponin and has been used to wash hair and clothing. The bark of one species is used to cure snake bites and applications for headaches and rheumatism. The bark of another species is rich in tannin and has been used to cure leather.


We have not yet checked out if other seeds used in PNG were also in vogue among the Kamoro. These include the vine Abrus precatorius, which are smaller than those of the Adenanthera and distinguishable by a black eye spot. While the Kamoro consume the seeds of Pangium edule, we did not find out if they used the same seeds as in PNG for rattles attached to belts, arm bands or strung together and worn hanging down the back. 


Insect use by the Kamoro:

The hors d’oeuvres: grubs, worms and other delicious snacks.


Sago grubs are well known to the various ethnic groups living among the mangroves on New Guinea and the Kamoro are no exception. Right from the beginning of my research I was confronted with some live, wiggling grubs, perhaps as a test of my manhood or rather adaptability. Fortunately, a life-time of experience among traditional cultures has inured me to the way anything looks: the taste is the thing on which I judge exotic food. (If you can eat - chew and swallow that is - fresh peyote, you can eat anything.) My Kamoro hosts explained to me that the KO, the sago grub, has a business end which bites. This is a smooth, shiny dark-colored head equipped with a pincer-like appendage. That’s how the little critter, about four centimeters long, chews its way through the sago pith and into adulthood as a beetle. I could see for myself the dozen or so grubs nestled in a chunk of sago pith, wiggling and displaying their pincers. Someone showed me the eating technique: pick and hold by the head, bite it off and eat the rest. No problem. The body is fatty, a bit chewy and pretty much devoid of taste. A bit like butter. I must admit to preferring the grubs roasted, but simply because of the texture: crisp and crunchy.


Proofs of manhood and adaptability done and over, I wanted to identify the animal in scientific terms. I thought that with the popularity of the sago grubs in New Guinea, there would be reams of literature. No such luck. Even a monograph on New Guinea beetles makes no mention of our little friend. It was relatively easy to identify a somewhat similar beetle which are specially fond of (and cause plenty of damage to) coconut trees: the palm weevil Rhynchophorus cruentatus: hefty-bodied, shiny, six centimeter long beetle with a long curved horn projecting upwards. But nothing on the sago grub of such widespread use at least among the Asmat and the Kamoro. 


It took my buddy and collaborator David Pickell, who solves just about any problem I have, to identify the grub. But even he needed a sample. So I collected some of the beasts, pickled them in some preserving solution given to me by the Freeport environmental lab and sent the critters (I’m fairly sure this was highly illegal) to David. At the Berkeley library, he found a multi-volume description of all Australian weevils. Fortunately for us, our specific friend also lives in Aussie land (at the ragged edge of its distribution range) although probably no one there, except perhaps the Aborigines who eat any and everything, consumes them. Et voilà:  Rhynchophorus ferrugineus; family Rhynchophoridae, a large weevil. But wait: it’s been identified and classified since 1790, by someone named Oliver.  The genus name comes from the Greek meaning ‘snout-bearing’ while the species name is derived from Latin, meaning rust-colored. It seems that our beetle has variable coloration and several forms have been identified. The adult of the species sports elbowed antennae tipped with orange clubs. The weevil of the genus Rhynchophorus, weighing three to eight grams, with three to seven per cent protein, ten to thirty per cent fat and the rest water. The common name given is Red-striped palm weevil, puzzling to me as I have never seen any red-striped models - but it seems that there are several color variations. The species-level identification given is Rhynchophorus schack (=R. ferrugineus, variety schack).


 While in the protein-poor highlands, many insects are eaten as dietary supplement, the Kamoro can afford to be more fussy eaters. Some consume grasshoppers as well as using them for fishing bait. Two insects, aside from the well known sago grubs, are consumed fairly regularly. If the sago tree is allowed to flower, its pith becomes a sweet, edible (but not preservable) substance. In this form of the pith the Kamoro say they find a different kind of grub called. This animal is said to be much longer than the ‘normal’ sago grub, perhaps 10 to 12 cm., whitish in color, narrow with a curved shape: ((. We have no idea if it grows up to become a beetle.


According to Kamoro informants, but not checked out personally, there are four other wood dwelling insects which are eaten. They are referred to in Indonesian as ‘ulat’ which can mean caterpillar, maggot or larva as well as ‘cacat’ meaning worm. The names below are given in the Kamoro language with the trees identified scientifically where possible.


1. The ‘bamako’ is a type of grub consumed, 12 to 14 cm. long and living in two species of trees: wiriku (Hopea nodosa) and kimoko (Pimeleodendron pinnatum).

2. The ‘bakamu’ grub lives in the manaro tree (Hopea novoguinensis); it tastes like sago grubs and its color is said to be white and brown.        

3. The ‘makamo’ is a ‘worm’ from the opako, the breadfruit tree, Artocarpus communis or A. altilis; it is said to be toe-sized in diameter and 10 to 12 cm. long.

4. The ‘otai’ is said to be a kind of worm which breaks apart when pulled; it is bitter tasting and found in the tree called umu, Xylocarpus moluccensis.


Shrimp and crabs species eaten by the Kamoro

Along with fish, several crustacean species contribute significantly to the Kamoros’ cash income. While crabs and shrimp have been a part of their diet from well before recorded history, Freeport personnel and the population influx into the Timika area have created a high degree of demand for these universally appreciated creatures. While it will a cold day in hell before outsiders acquire a taste for tambelo or sago grubs, even finicky American wives relish fresh local shrimp (when they can get them: seldom) or, if someone cracks open the shells, the famous mangrove crabs. But well off Indonesians usually snap up the crustaceans well before they reach the expats plates. Marketing these in the company towns of Tembagapura and Kuala Kencana is non-existent and most expat ladies are adverse to taking the high adventure of shopping in the Timika market: dirt, smells, stares and language problems are insurmountable barriers. This is perhaps just as well since there might well be over-exploitation by the Kamoro of the targeted species. An even greater threat comes from the many shrimp boats operating out of Sorong and elsewhere, using bottom drag lines and operating much closer to shore than the legal limit of three kilometers. Less than a decade ago, the prawn fishing in Bintuni Bay was valued at $35 million, but the destruction of large mangrove areas for a big wood-chip operation led to a drastic reduction in shrimp catches. So the boats now operate off the Kamoro coast.


Crustaceans are the most versatile animals of the mangroves, occupying virtually all micro-habitats in this ecosystem. The fantastic daily biomass production of the mangroves, mostly in the form of leaves, enters the food chain through a group of crabs called Sesarmids which consume some 30 per cent of the mangrove litter, including about 75 per cent of the propagules. (Lots of bacteria, amphopods and polychaetes consume most of the rest.) The crabs pull the leaves and mangrove propagules into their burrows for leisurely, undisturbed consumption. The Sesarmids belong to the Portunidae family. In the Portunidae family, the best known (and, to their loss, the most delicious) denizen in our area is called Scylla olivacea, better known as the mangrove crab. These swimming crabs make long migrations linked to their reproductive cycle, with the female making journeys of up to 30 kilometers into the open sea while loaded with newly-laid eggs attached to her abdomen. She returns home to daddy, who has been minding the mangrove homestead, after the eggs have hatched. (Well, OK, pace scientists, real life is not quite so romantic: she just returns to the mangrove area; like most animals, our Scylla lose interest in each other after mating.) The Kamoro ladies gather these crabs for sale. The tough-pincered beasts live in burrows and tidal pools among the roots of the mangrove trees.


The mud lobster, Thalassina anomala, has the good fortune to be adapted by evolution to eat mud, and taste just like what it eats. This way, humans leave it alone to perform its essential task in life: digging deep burrows (U-shaped tunnels, up to two meters deep) which allows for drainage and oxidation of the deeper areas of mangrove sediments. Not that these animals do this for altruistic reasons: their mud diet contains organic particles on which they survive. But they have to eat lots of mud to obtain sufficient nourishment. Their habitat is dotted with distinctive mounds topping the burrows. Aside from the generally beneficent task of soil aeration, these crustaceans ‘ploughing ‘activities increase the growth rate of trees, especially of the mangrove genera Bruguiera and Ceriops as well as the Nypa palm.


Another bunch of crabs, called ocypods (sometimes called ghost or running crabs) usually keep to the muddy intertidal areas but occasionally venture for adventure further into the mangroves. The best known genus of the group are the fiddler crabs, of the genus Uca. Males waste a lot of time displaying their one oversized (for their size) claw, fighting only very occasionally. One of the more fun spectacles in Kamoroland consists of watching large male colonies of males, waving their claws at each other near their burrows, making a quick dash for it when a bigger fellow approaches. The aggressive behavior changes at mating times into intricate courtship dances. These little water-dependent crabs can survive for hours in a dry environment thanks to reservoirs of water carried in special body pouches. Their plumbing system, which recycles this water enriched with atmospheric oxygen, pumps the life-sustaining fluid to the gills, keeping the animals happy and active in the sun and air until the next tide. They are the most active both day and night at low tides. Species are separated into distinct zones.


The commercial shrimp species, the penaeids living in the mangroves, belong mostly to the genus Penaeus. The large, sought-after banana prawn (P. merguiensis) is the most closely associated with the mangroves where it feeds on the particularly rich zooplankton: their nursery and feeding grounds. Mating and egg-laying takes place in coastal waters (whence to shrimp boats off the Kamoro coast) with the post larval shrimp hightailing it to the (relative) safety of the mangroves. At sexual maturity, it’s time for the open sea again. In contrast, the other main commercial species in the Kamoro habitat, the genus Macrobranchium (mostly M. rosenbergi), the giant freshwater prawn, also migrate out of the mangroves when ready for sex, but head upstream to reach their love-nests. These huge prawns change from a yellow-brown to black when full-sized, but taste delicious regardless of color. Worth a lot of money, this species, along with the Scylla crabs, is in danger of over-exploitation in our area.


Dwi Rahayu of the Freeport environmental department has collected and identified most of the crabs from the estuarine areas. They are grouped into 16 families, split into 48 genera and 80 species. The Kamoro use many crabs as fishing bait. They often eat and sell the mangrove crab, probably Scylla olivacea and perhaps the very similar S. serrata as well. Other near-shore crabs include the commercially valuable Blue Manna (also called Blue Swimmer or Sand Crab), Portunus pelagicus


The most important shrimp species for home consumption or for sale include the long-armed prawns, udang kali, Macrobranchium mamillodactylus and the black, very large adults or hefty-sized yellowish M. rosenbergi.  Add to this the giant or jumbo tiger prawn (also known as the leader or panda prawn), a basic black with white blotches all over, Penaeus monodon. Sought for sale, we also have the banana prawn, Penaeus merguiensis and the much smaller Caridina sp. In the same category, the endemic shrimp called udang batu, goes under the scientific name of Cherax lorenzi.


For an overview of shrimp, the totals found by Dwi Rahayu, are grouped in nine families, 20 genera and 58 species, including new species and so-far unidentified ones. The most numerous genus is Macrobranchyum with 14 species.




From the dawn of mankind, many seaside cultures have obtain at least some of their food from a wide variety of mollusks. The Kamoro are no different, but they place a great deal of emphasis on one particular kind of bivalve called tambelo in eastern Indonesia. They are found inside fallen mangrove trees. I have found out that the Asmat, the eastern neighbors of the Kamoro, do eat them occasionally but that this habit was recently introduced there by the Kamoro school teachers who arrived in the mid to late 1950s. Several species of mollusks, gathered frequently on the ‘shopping’ expeditions by the ladies to the mangroves, fit into the Kamoro diet as an important adjunct source of protein. As man can’t live by sago and fish alone, variety from the mollusks presents a healthy relief from meal monotony. The various species of mollusks in the Kamoro area fall into one of two categories: the spiral, snail-like gastropods and the symmetrical, two-shelled bivalves. Included in the latter category, we have the local gastronomic specialty, the tambelo.


There are several species of tambelo, all belonging to the Teredinidae Family. These are bivalves and commonly called shipworms. They are chiefly burrowers in wood and usually found in floating logs or wharf pilings. This family comprises 66 species; they are unusual, filter-feeding, bivalve animals which form a calcareously lined burrow or tube that varies greatly in thickness. There are three sub-families:

1. Teredininae, with unsegmented pallets and the following genera: Teredo, Neoteredo, Dicyathifera, Teredothyra, Bactronophorus, Zachsia, Teredora, Uperotus, Psiloteredo, and Lyrodus.

2. Bankiinae have segmented pallets and contain the genera Bankia, Nausitora, Spathoteredo, and Nototerdo.

3. Kuphinae:  genus Kuphus


The longest, slimiest and best of the tambelo is called generally called ‘ko’ by the Kamoro and scientifically Bactronophorus thoracites. The larger, mature specimens average some 30 cm in length. This top-of-the-line tambelo comes from two species of mangrove trees,  Rhizophora stylosa and R. apiculata. The ko variety of tambelo is gathered during periodic foraging visits to the mangroves. The fallen Rhizophora are examined for evidence of tambelo inside: patches of a light crust-like matter adhering the surface. The trees are then split open with axes and the tambelo pulled out from their burrows. Some are eagerly eaten on the spot. The rest are wrapped in leaves, placed in a section of bark and taken back to the village. The whole animal is consumed, except for the shells at the head and the pallets at the end of the siphons. These pallets are used to slice the body open longitudinally to wash out the blackish contents of the gut. But the animal can be eaten without this cleaning for those in a hurry. The Kamoro claim that there are several other species of tambelo, called different names by them, but we have only been able to identify the trees in which they are found. While all are said to bring or maintain good health, some are eaten for specific complaints, such as to alleviate coughing or painful bones.


The other bivalves

Other bivalves aside from the tambelo eaten fairly regularly in home consumption, with two species used in one variation of the karapao initiation ritual. Several of these are important to the Kamoro. They include two species of large, locally gathered bivalves, up to 13 cm in diameter. Scientifically placed in the Corbiculidae Family, the species are referred to as Polymesoda (Geloina) erosa, and Polymesoda (G.) expansa. It is used for making lime for painting carvings, although the Anadara granosa produces a whiter lime, according to the Kamoro. In legends, the Polymesoda is a symbol for the female sexual organ. These bivalves have several functions in the karapao ritual, including its ceremonial breaking before the start of the pig hunt and during the festivities it is cooked and eaten with sago. The sago-bivalve combination is also eaten in normal circumstances. Another similar bivalve has also been identified recently, Polymesoda papuensis (?).


1. Family Isognomonidae. The shells of this family varying greatly in shape, different from other typical bivalves due to many ligamental grooves but without hinge-teeth, unique in this family. Two species are eaten by the Kamoro: Isognomon ephippium and Chicoreus capucinus. The second of the two species is consumed when a major sickness causes loss of appetite. It is found on the roots of mangroves where the water is quite salty.


2. Family Arcidae, the arc clams. Two species are consumed: Barbatia sp. and Andadara granosa. The first species is found on muddy surfaces. The second one is abundant in shallow mud or sand. Its radial grooves are thick, on a white surface. This shell is used to making lime (kapur). It is used for painting carvings, including the large ancestral ones called mbitoro. While other shells can be use to make paint, the Anadara is considered the best, as it produces the whitest paint. The outer surfaces of canoes are also painted with lime to prevent or retard worm-like boring bivalves, different from the tambelo.


3. Family Corbiculidae, the corbiculate clams. These are large bivalves, thus extensively used by the Kamoro. While the Batissa violacea clams are gathered, the three species of Polymesoda are much more frequently found. These are Polymesoda (Geloina) coaxans, P. expansa and, to an inland member of the genus, P. papuensis. These three species of the genus Polymesoda, subgenus Geloina, are the most important mollusks for the Kamoro, food and ritual use-wise, along with the tambelo.  The tambelo however is not consumed in ceremonies, except occasionally as an adjunct, as they spoil very quickly. At a ritual initiation called tepena karapao we saw several hundred ‘tepena’ prepared for consumption. This food preparation involves mixing kawe and omapoko bivalves (see above) with sago into long, narrow leaf-wrapped packages and baking these over open fires. Other villages also hold this ceremony, requiring large quantities of this bivalve.  


The Freeport environmental department has compiled a list of the area’s bivalves (Class Pelecypoda) and grouped these into ten families, with a total of 20 genera and 24 species.


Snails and slugs: the gastropods

While other animals own a coiled shell home, only the gastropods have a door-like operculum to seal it tight. The Kamoro gather many different gastropods opportunistically. Below are some the more common ones. Most are small, less than 10 centimeters, with the five species of the Neretidae Family even tinier, in the 15 mm. range. Only one species surpasses 10 cm., growing to 16 cm. unless eaten beforehand.


1. Family Melongenidae:  crown conchs, whelks and false trumpets

Pugilina cochlidium(ose) This is the Spiral Melongena of the commonly called Swamp Conch or Melon Conch Family; carnivorous, found in brackish or muddy waters near mangroves.


2. Family Muricidae:  murex shells  

Chicoreus (Naquuetia) capucinus, the mangrove murex; common on mangrove roots.

Chicoreus capucinus and Stramonita gradata.


3. Family Potamididae: mud creepers or mudflat snails

Terebralia sulcata, T. palustris (the largest gastropod commonly gathered), and Telescopium telescopium.


4. Family Volutidae: volutes, bailer shells; the Cymbiola cf. nivosa, the Snowy Volute is found occasionally washed ashore on beaches.


5. Family Melampidae:

Ellobium aurisjudae, E. aurismidae and Cassidula aurisfelis: these are prominent primitive pulmonate gastropods in mangroves, allied to garden snails.


6. Family Neritidae: nerites - Nerita balteata, N. planospira, N. variegata, Neritina violacea and N. zigzag.


Occasionally one sees a triton-like shell in a Kamoro village. Called tono or tonoho, this is a Busykon Whelk, also called False Trumpet, Australian Trumpet, Syrinx aruanus. Most of the time in our area it is washed up, empty, on beaches. But when the animals is still inside, it is eaten. The shell is perforated and sometimes used as a trumpet. References call this animals the largest gastropod in the world.


There may well be more than one species of the Melo genus covered by the Kamoro name ‘upu’. One is the Heavy Bailer Shell, found in the relatively restricted zone of Australia to New Guinea, Melo umbiliculatus. The other is Melo aethiopica, the Crowned Bailer. There could also be a third species. Be that as it may, the Kamoro are unaware its value for collectors. They were used before the Age of Plastic as children’s drinking ups. They are still occasionally used today to pour water onto the sawdust-like product from the adz-rasped sago trunk before kneading it, to combine with and wash out the starch from the fibers.


The Kamoro gather many colorful shell found on the beach are temporarily used for personal adornment. These include representatives from the following families: Columbellidae, Olividae, Marginellidae, Conidae, Pectinidae and Veneridae.


Formerly, shells from the Family Terebridae were used in black magic: after burning them, they were buried in the footsteps of the victim: Terebra spp.


Fishing and fishes in the Kamoro area

Fish is the Kamoro’s principal source of protein. From the ancestors, they inherited several traditional fishing techniques: using poison from a vine (Derris spp.), spear with a harpoon-like detachable head or one with a fixed, multi-pronged head. Oval nets were also used as well as barrier-weirs to block off tidal streams. The Kamoro say that their ancestors did not use hooks, of either bone or wood, nor any seine/set nets. 


All the traditional methods are still used. But there is an important difference in that now the spears have metal tips. The harpoons are for spearing the big ones (fish, rays, turtles) from canoes in estuaries or in the open sea but fairly close to shore. Inland, the harpoons are also used for big fish as well as the larger lizards. The fishing spear shafts are made from bamboo or a hardwood. The binding is made from rattan, fastening either the fixed or detachable spearhead. Formerly the business end of the spear was of ironwood but today it’s from locally forged metal, cut and pounded into a two-pronged and barbed shape. A relatively new technique, underwater spear-fishing, involves the use of home-made goggles and a long, thin spear, 70 to 90 cm. on the average, and with a barbed tip. This is powered with rubber from tires inner tubes.


In another technique, a long, thin ‘curtain’ or weir-barrier, made from strips of gaba-gaba, (the long midribs of the sago palm frond) is set across a creeks at high tide from bank to bank. The tidal net or barrier-curtain is supported on either side and by several poles set in the water’s soft mud bottom. As the tide goes out, fishes are trapped on the upstream side.


The traditional oval nets are also still used, mostly by women. The supporting oval edge or lip to which the net is tied is still made of rattan, bent to shape, but the mesh is now store-bought. Formerly, this mesh net was made from the bark of the Hibiscus tiliaceous and the similar Thespesia populnea, called waru laut in Indonesian. Elsewhere in the world, as with the Kamoro, the twisted bark of these trees makes good quality rope.


Rectangular nets of nylon are bought from stores in Timika by the Kamoro or just given to them by fish buyers. Some of the nets are found at sea, but more often they are ‘liberated’ from non-Kamoro fishermen who are using traditional fishing grounds with no compensatory payment. (This happens particularly off Puriri Island where some 150 well-financed Butonese fishermen have settled for the past decade and fished without paying anything to the Kamoro who have the traditional rights to this area.) The set nets, of varying widths also differ considerably in length, from a few meters to well over twenty meters. We have heard of reports of the mesh size getting smaller, showing decreasing numbers of larger species, but this information was not verified.


Up to the mid-1920s, the Kamoro caught just enough fish to feed their families. This began to change with the arrival of Dutch officials, schoolteachers and Roman Catholic mission staff, starting in 1925. They bought -or were given- fish, but most Kamoro remained subsistence fishermen until the advent of Freeport and the subsequent booming economy in the Timika area. With the ensuing population explosion in the area, the demand for fish increased exponentially. Many Kamoro in the area have cashed in on this, albeit on a very small scale. Most of the fish sold in the Timika market is handled by outsiders who have taken over the fish catching and marketing. The Kamoro are not well organized, lack business savvy along with ice. They sell very little fish commercially, either in the Timika market or to Pangan Sari, the company which feeds Freeport and its contractors, some 11,000 hungry souls. At the Timika market, most of the fish sold comes from the frozen fish by-catch of shrimp boats bottom-net trawling offshore (and sometimes very, very close to shore...). And what seems like a foreign company is making large catches of barramundi in the estuaries, rumored to be shipped, frozen, to Germany and Australia.


Fish (along with the mangrove crabs collected by the ladies) represent the principal ‘cash crop’ for the Kamoro living in Freeport’s project area. With the ever-increasing demand for fish in the Timika area, there is a good possibility of the several high-priced targeted species will suffer a population collapse. A survey of the sustainable yields of these species is essential to determine when stocks are beginning to be depleted to the point of non-recovery. Of course, in other parts of the world these surveys have not stopped the collapse of targeted species, but the basic knowledge of such surveys can create an awareness which might eventually translate into conservation measures. At the very least, the spawning locations of the most highly prized local species, the barramundi (Lates calcarifer, kakap mata kuning,) should be identified and placed off limits, even to the Kamoro, during the spawning season. 


But the greatest threat to the indigenous fish species comes neither from over-fishing nor from the mill’s tailings. The insidious danger, out of sight, comes from introduced species, especially from the tilapia (Oreochomis mossambica), which feeds on the eggs of local species and out-competes them for available food and living space. These fishes were probably introduced by Javanese transmigrants, with no thought of control by fisheries authorities. Whatever effects the tailings have on fishes, it is limited in time, as when the mine closes, the Aikwa system will be repopulated from river systems east and west. But the introduced fish are here for ever, the worst thing that has happened to the local ecosystems. 


The following list was compiled in several villages, by looking at actual catches and using two illustrated books by Gerald Allen (Allen 1991, 1997). While these fishes are the most common ones caught, the Kamoro will eat just about any fish, depending on what is available. For sale, there is huge demand for the barramundi in the Timika area, while another dozen or so of the larger species are also easily sold. Transportation of fresh fish to market is the key problem in the marketing of Kamoro-caught fish. As this is often impossible without ice, much of the catches meant for sale are smoke-cured. While this methods works well enough, keeping the fish from spoiling for a few days, the prices are much lower than fresh fish.



Overview: main species - English/Kamoro/Latin/Indonesian


bull shark              boako or moako      Carcharhinus leucas       ikan hiu

blactip shark         oko                             C. limbatus                         ikan hiu

long-nosed grey    takarita/mamena   C. brevipinnata                ikan hiu

shovel-nosed ray  poaru                        various                                    ikan pari

white-spotted ray mutake                     Rhynchobacus djiddensis

                                                                                                           ikan lontar/dayung

rays (general)      iini or inapoka             various                         ikan pari

manta ray            parema                          Manta birostris           ikan pari

herrings et al        (tuu) weyako               various

milkfish                weyako                   Chanos chanos            bandeng

sardines                tuu or turi                      various      

smaller sardines     manako

eels                           upuku                       various                        belut laut

hardyheads           manako                    various                        ikan duri

gropers                   oraka/aroko              Epinephelus spp          garupa

barramundi          iwaro/tamuni         Lates calcarifer            kakap

whitings               kokare                       Sillago spp.                   kerong-kerong

deepsea jewfish    kopero                       Glaucosoma                  kapas-kapas


jack/trevally        paapuni                    Carangoides spp.           lasi/bubara

jack/trevally        iruku                        Scomberoides spp.        lasi/bubara

black pomfret      momuru                   Parastomateus niger    bawal

tripletail              tamako                      Lobotes surinamensis     kakap batu

snappers&sweetlips   etomoko            Lutjanus spp.                 kakap merah

                                                                 Lethrinus spp.               kakap merah

brown sweetlips kopero/tamako  Plectorhinchus gibbosus   kakap batu

naked-headed sea bream kopero    Gymnocranius griseus       kapas-kapas

whipfin silver biddy   kokare/kokere  Gerres oyena               kerong-kerong

black jew             katro/katoro       Protonibea diacanthus       kakap hitam/raja/tawar


mullets   botaro (small), tuku (medium), tipoko (large)

                                                   Liza spp/Valmugil buchanani         belanak

northern threadfin  wiriku     Polydactylus plebius                        mulut tikus

giant threadfin    wiriku     Eleutheronema tetradactylum    salmon/mulut tikus kuning



spotted scat      awau/apupu     Scatophagus argus                  samandar hitam

striped butterfish  awau           Selenotoca multifasciata         (sa)mandar

sicklefish          pakee/paii        Drepane punctata                     kipas-kipas

java spinefoot   awau               Siganus javus                           samandar



toothed river herring        manako   Clupeoides papuensis           ikan puri

fork-tailed catfish (all)      ewako       Arius spp.                            ikan sembilang

papillate catfish                 wakara      A. velutinus                         ikan sembilang

Taylor’s catfish                 waruku     A. taylori                                      ikan sembilang

ell-tailed catfish                 iripiti         Neosilurus spp.                   ikan lele

crescent perchlet                kokare        Terapon jarbua                    kerong-kerong

hardyheads                       manako     various                                 ikan duri

oxeye herring                    weako        Megalops cyprinoides         ikan tulang-tulang   


Reptiles in the Kamoro area

The crocodiles, lizards, turtles and snakes form an integral but not crucial part of what the Kamoro use from their environment. In former times, at least four species of snakes were eaten. This is still true today but some Kamoro are reluctant to admit to the practice from a sense of shame. While they do not go out of their way to kill snakes, if they happen on one by chance, for some, it’s good enough for the pot.  Snakes are of prime concern only insofar as every village has had one or more of its members killed by snakebite during the past few years.


After the market for crocodile skins collapsed in the 1980’s, these animals (two species present in our area) reverted back to their old status as occasional meat for the pot. They are sometimes caught in fishermen’s nets, killed and eaten. Active hunting of the animals, at night and with torchlights, happens but rarely. During our many stays at Kamoro villages during the past five years, we only saw three large crocodiles killed, and two of those were dispatched with the greatest of ease just inside the East Levee, during broad daylight, following the Wanagon ‘incident’ of May 2000. Due to incredibly heavy rains, a retaining dam burst at the mine site, sending huge amounts of mud downstream. The crocodiles probably crawled out of the muck to breathe and so were easy to see and spear. The third crocodile was caught in a fishing net off Pasir Hitam. We only ate crocodile a half dozen times; some were tender and delicious, the others good enough tasting but terribly chewy. These were the tough old fellers. During the course of many trips up and down rivers, we saw perhaps a dozen medium-sized crocs, in the 80 cm. to 1.4 meter range, either on logs projecting into the river or splashing down from the bank. One set of tracks we saw near the East Levee was a very hefty-sized brute, probably some 2.5 meters long.


I accompanied the Kamoro on two night-time crocodile hunts. On one occasion, we saw about a half dozen small individuals, in the 30 to 40 cm. range but the hunter missed them all. On the second occasion, a different hunter caught an 82 cm. specimen and a fairly large one, about 1 meter 75 cm. The crocodiles brought back to the villages. on a dozen or so times, ranged from 30 to 80 centimeters.


There was no surfeit of lizards in our village diet, but each time it was a treat. The prime use of lizards, mostly monitors, is for their skin which is attached to hourglass drums (tifa) as the playing surface. Varanus indicus, the Pacific mangrove monitor, seem relatively abundant in the mangroves near the coast. We saw bunches of them, bundled up for sale (to other Kamoro) several times. 


Turtles are actively sought by the Kamoro for their meat and eggs. The shells are not used for any purposes as far as we could determine, except, occasionally, for house decoration. The best season for hunting turtles is when it is dry, around December. We rarely saw turtles around the villages, dead or alive. But we did see local turtles at the house of a dealer in exotic animals, in Timika. 


Turtles evolved as a separate entity in the Triassic Era, some 225 million years ago. Many species have come and gone and today’s turtles are grouped into 12 families. These are divided into two main groups: the Cryptodira which can pull their heads back inside the shell, and the Pleurodira, which can’t: they just turn their necks and heads alongside the body. The turtles found in the Kamoro area belong to four different families.


Family Cheloniidae: Sea Turtles

While not a major event, sea turtles are seldom caught by the Kamoro, even in the coastal villages. There are no known nesting sites in the area and male turtles never leave the sea while females do so only to lay their eggs. Chelonia mydas: the Green Turtle, Penyu Hijau. I have seen and photographed this customer, in Kekwa Village. It has been caught by one of the small dugout canoes fishing close to shore. The adult of the species is exclusively herbivorous and can feed on mangrove leaves. It is probable that the Hawksbill, Penyu Sisik, Eretmochelys imbricata, and the Flatback Turtle, Penyu Pipih, Natator depressus make an occasional appearance in the Arafura Sea off the coastal area of the Kamoro. While the distribution range of the last two species include the Arafura Sea, the Hawksbill is seldom found outside coral reef areas while the Flatback feeds on sea cucumbers which I have not yet seen in the Kamoro area.


Family Chelidae: Snake-necked Terrapins

The members of this family are mostly found in New Guinea and Australia. There are three genera in New Guinea, with distribution charts showing all of them in the southern part of the island. While we can only confirm one species from our field work, it is very likely that one or more exist in the Kamoro area. And species of the genus Chelodina so closely resemble each other that ‘even a turtle specialist has some difficulties in identifying them’ according to Dr. Iskandar. He also wrote that the genus may well be split into two distinct genera in the near future. Of the 11 species of Chelodina in the Sahul area, five are only found in Australia. One lives and loves only on Roti Island (southwest Timor, Indonesia’s southernmost island). Of the five remaining species, all from the south coast, three have only been given scientific descriptions and status in the 1990s. The latest member to officially join the family, Chelodina pritchardi, was scientifically ‘born’ in 1997. There is a (slight) chance that one member of the genus, C. siebenrocki, could have crawled to Kamoroland from the western limit of its range, the Lorentz River, but none have been reliably reported so far. What we have for sure in our area is Chelonia novaeguineae, of omnivorous habits: meat, crustaceans, insects, and plants.


The genus Elseya is in the worst shape, scientifically speaking. New Guinea has two described species but three anxiously await permission to enter the genus. For now, they have to wait with the none too colorful names of Elseya new species 1, new species 2 and new species 3. All members of the genus have tubercles on the side of the head, a characteristic feature. The literature states the presence of Elseya branderhosti in the Timika area, dubiously confirmed by the Kamoro name ‘jewana’. But at the time of this writing, I have not yet seen this species, dead or alive. The common English name is Southern Snapping Terrapin, Kura-Kura Perut Putih in Indonesian. Although I am no turtle expert, I am pretty sure I have seen (at an animal dealer’s house in Timika) what is called the Lorentz Snapping Terrapin, Kura-Kura Lorentz, Elseya new species 1. It’s distribution range includes Timika and the animal has at least two easily identifiable physical features: the reddish color of the plastron and a black spot on each back scale. The species is also said to be relatively common. (See photo) The men of the Kamoro village of Pigapu, looking at a photo of the animal, said that it was found in swamps. Be that as it may, new taxonomy now has Elseya branderhosti as the southern species of the former bi-coastal Elseya novaeguineae, now restricted to the north. Both species are endemic to the island. In a recent Freeport survey, the stomach contents of the E. branderhorstii was analyzed. The animal was found to be an omnivorous glutton:  blue-green algae and arthropods; fruits and flowers of Dillenia sp., Gnetum genemo fruits and young leaves, Coleoptera, Scaevola sp. (fruit), Pandanus spp. Piper sp. (leaves) and Polyporus sp. (mushrooms).


The genus Emydura, with smooth sides of the head, is represented by only one species in New Guinea. It is alive and well in Kamoroland. The Red-bellied Short-necked Terrapin, Kura-Kura Perut Merah, Emydura subglobosa, is commonly found inland in large rivers. The animal is characterized by a very distinct yellow stripe on its head and continuing on the slim and smooth neck. Juveniles sport bright yellow plastrons which becomes a dull pink in adults. Long ago, this species was said to have helped the ancestors at Iwaka and it was forbidden to eat it; this taboo no longer applies. In a recent (December 2000) Freeport survey, six of there critters were caught in a small tributary of the Kali Kopi; half by traps at night and the other three by Kamoro fishermen participating in the survey.) Informants in Pigapu said this turtle can climb trees, especially the Gnetum genemo, to eat the leaves. They find the animal mainly upstream.


Family Trionychidae: Soft-shelled Turtles

This family can boast of the widest distribution of all turtles. Its members are characterized by a combination of fully webbed feet and a relatively flat, partly cartilaginous carapace. The long neck ends in a short proboscis, a mini-version of the pig-nosed turtle (see below) of the Family Carettochelydae, with the two families closely related. Unlike other turtles, the soft-shelled bunch make lousy pets, biting on the slightest provocation, even a friendly touch. As some can weigh over 100 kg., this is no love-bite. In our area, the family’s only representative is the New Guinea Giant Soft-shell Turtle or Bibron’s Soft-shell Turtle, Labi-labi Irian, Pelochelys bibroni. At least that was the case until a recent taxonomic revision restricted this name to southern New Guinea, with the designation of Pelochelys cantorii for the species found in the north of the island and distributed all the way to China. Long considered just a synonym of the common giant soft-shelled turtle, our friend acquired its individual distinctiveness only in 1995 according to Iskandar (2000) but Beehler (1993) gives the date of its scientific ‘birth’ ie its official naming, as 1976). The animal has a thick, relatively long neck and a robust head. The carapace shows very distinctive thick, radiating yellow or white streaks. I saw only the remains of a very recently butchered specimen in Atuka Village. (see photo of shell and skeleton) It is said to be found in swamps and upstream.


Family Carettochelydae: Pig-nosed Turtle

This family has just one genus with but a single species. Until 1970 it was thought that this turtle was only present in New Guinea. But the same species has since been found in rivers of North Queensland in Australia. The long pig-like proboscis features as the most distinguishing characteristic. This turtle also has a domed shell, fairly thick skin on the carapace (no scutes) and plastron and webbed feet, allowing them to swim like sea turtles, with coordinated flipper movements. The Pig-nosed Turtle, Labi-labi Moncong Babi, has the scientific name of Carettochlys insculpta.  It is said to be found from far inland all the way to the sea.


Two crocodiles, perhaps three

It was long thought that there were only two species in New Guinea: Crocodylus porosus and C. novaeguineae, but this had recently been recently questioned, with the addition of a new species for the south coast, different from the C. novaeguineae which is restricted to the north coast. The C. porosus, the salt water or estuarine crocodile is a very widely spread species while the other two are endemic to New Guinea. I became aware of the fact that the south coast species was different very recently (Djoko Iskandar, personal communication, 2000). In a recent book, Dr. Iskandar writes that this species, Sahul Crocodile, Buaya Sahul, Crocodylus sp. can easily be distinguished from the north coast species. Whereas the C. novaeguineae has its ‘nuchal scutes tightly packed with some overlapping and a relatively flat snout, the new species’ nuchal scutes are usually separated from each other, and the post-cranial scutes are followed with at most two smaller scales. The diagnostic of the new species is by the first pair of nuchal scales which are separated from each other or interspaced by several smaller scales. Dr. Iskandar writes that the species has been undescribed so far partially to prevent trade in what would be considered an exotic ‘new’ species.


Various sites on the internet supply a wealth of information on crocodiles, including out New Guinea specie(s). The separation of the dorsal scutes from the nuchals seems to be the main distinguishing characteristic. The two ridges on the snout are present in other species, although I am not sure if others have a greenish iris as this is not mentioned in the species keys. There are generally four to six post-occipital scales and four nuchal ones. The animals are primarily nocturnal with the males reaching a maximum of 3.5 meters and the females 3 meters. The snout is relatively narrow and the grayish body and tail has dark banding, especially noticeable in juveniles.


The pioneering work of pointing out the differences between the species was published by Philip Hall (Hall, 1989). He writes that the northern crocodile nests in the dry season, mostly on floating mats of vegetation while the southern one on land during the wet season. The northern croc ovideposits larger clutches while the southern one lays significantly larger eggs, by five centimeters. While the southern C. novaeguineae has four to six occipital scales on the neck, the northern one has only four. From the web sites, it seems that at this time the northern and southern New Guinea fresh water crocodiles are not recognized as different species. As for the C. porosus, commercial hunting became quire large-scale after World War II, peaking in the 1960s. Restrictions were imposed and today both sides of New Guinea restrict exports of the skins to between 18 and 51 centimeters of belly width, measured in inches. This corresponds to 0.9 centimeters to 2.1 meters of body length, leaving the adult breeding population, in theory at least, to reproduce peacefully. 


The ‘new’ species is an old one to the Kamoro who call it ‘ewe timako’. It is said to be quite abundant in the Kamoro area. This is a New Guinea endemic. The larger crocs here are said to reach some two meters in length. The people of Iwaka say that there is another kind, which they call ‘buyatimako’, distinguished according to them by its whitish color. (‘buya’ means current [as related to water] in the Iwaka dialect). I saw two of these, about a 1.2 - 1.3 m. long; one was about a kilometer south of the village on a log in the Iwaka River; the other one was about two kilometers upstream, also on a log. These might be color variants. A man from Java who lives in Timika and sells exotic animals from Papua classified local crocodiles into three ‘species’ according to coloration and spot markings.


While mature C. porosus are generally a darkish gray with lighter areas, the juveniles’ coloration can cause plenty of confusion and mis-identification with the C. novaeguineae. The juvenile estuarine species, as the fresh water kind, sport black stripes on the body and tail. Some tend to be much lighter in color (see above), a condition known as hypomelanesia. The adults of both species have two ridges on the snout and obvious nasal swelling but the C. porosus has either no post-occipital scales or only one to four small ones as compared to the larger scales in this area for the C. novaeguineae. Also in the estuarine species the dorsal scales tend to be continuous with the nuchals, while on the fresh water species they are separated.


The crocodile killed (see photos) after the Wanagon ‘incident’ was cut up and a square piece of skin from where the head joins the neck was set aside for the hunter. He will put this up in his house as this is where the spirit of the crocodile resides: then it will be ‘mudah dapat kembali’ meaning that it will be easy to kill another one, as this spot is the ‘pusat roh buaya’, the center of the crocodile spirit.


The men of Iwaka Village say that the fat from turtles and crocodiles is used for cooking sago; it is also used as medicine for internal sickness and malaria; the gall/bile (empedu) is mixed with alcohol for general sickness and as an anti-malarial.


The Salt Water or Estuarine or Indopacific Crocodile, Buaya Muara, is the feared Crocodylus porosus. As the most specific identifying characteristic, the post-cranial scutes are absent, or very small, with the nuchal scutes arranged in three pairs. On the snout, between the eyes and the nostril, we can see a rounded ridge, if we can get close enough. Try dead specimen. While wonderfully equipped to be a top predator, this animals had one very important Achilles’ heel: its skin. Not that it’s very easy to pierce, but, when compared to other crocodiles, the estuarine species has only a relatively small body armor underside of each small scute, with scales more oval in shape than other species. It’s this skin characteristic which makes the animal the first choice of crocodile hunters for the skin trade.


Except for a large specimen living near Atuka Village (and blamed for the death of a young woman in 1997) the Indopacific crocodile are not generally of monster-size in our area. As there is no longer much of a market for their skins, the crocs are making a slow comeback in our area. I know of only one crocodile skin which was sold during my work with the Kamoro: the animals was 1.7 meters long and the skin fetched just over $10 in Timika. The meat of the occasional crocodile caught today is always eaten. The photo from Pasir Hitam, taken about three years ago, shows a crocodile which got entangled in a net and was killed by the fisherman with a parang or machete. The Kamoro consider the beast ‘jihad’ meaning evil or wicked.


A recent Freeport survey, conducted in December 2000, observed 37 crocodiles over 10 nights of sampling along various rivers. The highest number, one animal every two kilometers, was on the main stream of the Wania River. My informants in Pigapu Village, in the mid-reaches of the Wania River, told me that the main stream of the Wania River is too noisy for the crocodiles with outboard powered canoes and larger motorized boats frequently passing by, day and night. They said the crocodiles are along the side channels. The majority of the animals in the Freeport survey were hatchlings, and all were identified as Crocodylus porosus.  No adults, considered to reach 1.8 meters or more, were observed during the survey.



As with many other animal groups, the major portion of New Guinea lizards is derived from either Indo-Malayan elements or wide-spread and well traveled groups. Thus, not from Australia, as one might infer at first glance when considering only varanids and agamids, the larger and most conspicuous of lizards. Lizard affinities are usually considered with families and genera in mind as species have had time to enough time to evolve distinct forms. On the species level, only some 25 lizards are common to both Australia and New Guinea, representing perhaps five per cent of the combined total. The large and well-studied Australian continent holds 351 lizard species with the number for the much smaller and poorly researched New Guinea is thought to reach the eventual number of 200 when more studies will be carried out. Many new species and even new genera have only been discovered quite recently. Still at the species level, about 93 per cent of New Guinea’s lizard fauna is endemic. The numbers vary according to the families, ranging from a high of 64 per cent endemicity for the skinks (family Scincidae) to a low of 33 per cent for the monitors (family Varanidae, two out of six species). 


Lizards in general are adapted to an arboreal life-style and warm climates, thus we find the greatest numbers and diversity in the low tropical rain forest and mangroves. But except for varanids and a few agamids, the Kamoro have no use for lizards, unlike mountain groups who need all the animal protein they can catch. Skinks are the most numerous of New Guinea lizards, both in absolute numbers and species. They are the only family of lizards to have extensively proliferated in New Guinea and the only ones to have adapted to just about all habitats, including the high interior above 1800 meters. While there are several dozen endemic species, the genera restricted to New Guinea are very few. Geckos follow the skinks in numbers and diversity. They have dispersed well over water due to their mostly arboreal existence: clinging to trees washed out to sea, they colonize the far shores. Geckos are present in Kamoro houses, but generally ignored unless they make too much noise.


The useful varanids

The mangrove monitor, Varanus indicus, is the only species frequent in the Kamoro area. It is commonly eaten and their skins used for drums. These monitors, good swimmers, arrived from the western Indonesian islands. Aside from this species, I have only seen the green tree monitor, Varanus prasinus. When looking at books with illustrations of varanids, the Kamoro identified and named several other species, but some of these are doubtful residents in the area.


The New Guinea Spotted Tree Monitor, Varanus timorensis similis, is said to be a frequently found species. In Kamoro, it is usually named ‘oke’. The common Mangrove Monitor, Varanus indicus, is called ‘tetere oke’ or ‘weke’. The Green or Emerald Tree Monitor, Varanus prasinus, goes under the name ‘tetere’. One Kamoro group referred to this monitor in Indonesian as ‘guntur-kilat’ (thunder and lightning). It was the only species is not eaten, due to an ancestral ‘hukum guntur’ or law or the thunder. If someone eats one of these varanids, a member of his or her immediate family will die. This was said to be a ‘ganti-rugi’, an exchange for something  lost or spoiled.


The Papua Monitor, Varanus salvadorii, goes under the names ‘birmopuku’, ‘totoro’, ‘wua’o’ or ‘wa’o’. This is the longest (but not the largest) lizard in the world. The Black Tree Monitor, Varanus beccari was named ‘waweyaro’. As the species range is supposedly restricted to the Aru Island, the identification is probably mistaken. The Blue-tailed Monitor, Varanus doreanus, was named ‘birumoipoko’. Its meat was said to be the fattest.  


Petocz lists the following varanids for Irian Jaya (West Papua): V. gouldii, V. indicus, V. karlschmidti (Sepik), V. prasinus, V. salvadorii, and V. timorensis (Spotted Tree Monitor)

WWF lists for Lorentz: V. indicus, V. panoptes, V. prasinus and V. salvadorii

Hatfindo biodiversity study lists: V. indicus, V. prasinus and V. salvadorii.



The family Agamidae was formerly thought to be represented by six genera in New Guinea. Five of these genera have but one species, none useful to the Kamoro (if they exist in the area at all). They show mild interest in the other genus, Hypsilurus (formerly Gonocephalus) as they carry around enough meat to make an occasion catch worthwhile. All the species live in trees and some can reach 1.5 meters. Several species closely resemble the iguanas of the tropical Americas.


The Hatfindo Biodiversity study states that the genus Hypsilurus has at least seven species in Irian Jaya and that the systematics of this group are poorly understood; re-examination of the status of the various taxa is badly needed. Iskandar (2000) list 14 species of Hypsilurus in his checklist of herpetofauna on New Guinea and satellite islands.


The Kamoro identified two agamid lizards from field photos: Hypsilurus auritus, said to be eaten, caught on full moon nights. Another species Hypsilurus dilophus also appears to be a food item.


The large skink, Tiliquia scincoides gigas, ‘ewahowe’, the Giant Blue-tongue, is believed to be extremely poisonous and no medicines can help someone bitten: death is certain to follow. However, no one in any of the villages was able to name anyone who had died from a bite of this chunky and admittedly mean-looking beast. The animal has a wide ecological tolerance, from primary to highly disturbed forests and tends to be crepuscular and rather secretive. ... Although large, it is a harmless species and because of its wide ecological tolerance, easily coexists with human settlements. Unfortunately, it is considered highly poisonous by local people and according to them killed on sight. (There are only two poisonous species of lizards in the world and they are endemic to the deserts of north Mexico and the SW United States.)


While varanids are well covered in illustrated literature, other families are not. As there is much morphological variation at the species level, the excellent books on Australian lizards are of little use in New Guinea. In fact, the only comprehensive treatment of New Guinea lizards, treated along with the other reptiles of Indonesia, is found in an excellent but now well out-dated 1915 tome.



There are two very poisonous snakes in our area, with some Kamoro saying that the worse is the New Guinea Death Adder, Acanthophis antacticus. Bites from this species are common. A woman in Kekwa was killed by one about one and a half years ago, on the inland side of the mangroves, while I was staying in the village. The other poisonous snake is the Ikaheka or the New Guinea Small Eye Snake, Micropechis ikaheka. This species is considered the most dangerous by some Kamoro as they say that there is no traditional remedy if bitten; said to jump at the victim when attacking humans whom it seeks to bite; held responsible for two deaths in Iwaka: a young man in 1996, walking along the Djayanti Road and a young woman in 1997, when she was returning to the village after bathing in the river. 


Other snakes in the area include the Amethystine Python, Morelia amethistina; the Barred Keelback, Tropidonophis doriae; the Brown Cat Snake, Boiga irregularis; the New Guinea Ground Boa, Candoia aspera; the Arafura Wart or Filesnake, Acrochodus arafurae; the Little Wart, Acrochordus granulatus; the Setekwa River Forest Snake, Toxicocalamus grandis; the New Guinea Ground Snake, Aspidomorphis muelleri; the Green Tree Python, Morelia viridis; the White Bellied Mangrove Snake, Fordonia leucobalia; the Pacific Ground Boa, Candoia carinata; the Smooth Watersnake, Enhydris polylepis; the Southern D’Albertis Python, Leiopython albertisi; the While-bellied Mangrove Snake, Fordonia leucobalia; the Smooth Watersnake, Enhydris polylepsis.


Other, less common species, include the Pacific Ground Boa, Candoia carinata, the Green Treesnake, Dendrelaphis calligastra, the Slatey-grey Snake, Stegonotus cucullatus, the Northern Ground Snake, Stegonotus modestus, the Common Keelback, Tropinophis mairii mairii, the Montane Keelback, Tropinophis statisticus


Dendrelaphis punctatus

Morelia albertisi

Tropidonophis multiscutellatus the Keelback


Many Kamoro say that formerly, many people ate snakes, the larger species, but now it is usually only older men who do so. The following species were mentioned, as identified from photos: Morelia amethistina, Amethystine Python (one of these recently - 2001 -  killed a head of cattle at the Pangansari feedlot and abattoir), Leiopython albertisi, Northern Albertis Python, light colored, Leiopython albertisi,

Northern Albertis Python, dark colored and the Acrochodus arafurae, Arafura Wart Snake (or) Arafura File Snake.



Morelia boelenii. highly prized in pet trade; Almost nothing is known about the ecology of the rare and protected Bowline’s python



Expected from COW Project Area:
Hypsilurus auritus;

Crytodactylus marmoratus;

C. mimikanus;

Gekko mutilata, 



Xenorhina macroryncha;

Xenobatrachus bidens;


Birds in Kamoroland

Geographical barriers are the base of the ornithologists division of New Guinea into 14 major birding areas. The Kamoro territory lies in the southwest region which runs from the Bird’s Head in the west to Fly River area in the east. On the north, the central mountains form the natural barrier, with the Arafura Sea playing the same role in the south. The special bird forms here include the Greater Bird of Paradise, and Wallace’s Fruit Dove.


The focus here was to document the birds which are useful to the Kamoro either for their flesh, eggs or feathers. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am neither an ornithologist nor even an amateur bird watcher. A list of 41 species was incidentally compiled by Ary Suhandi and Dr. Yance de Fretes, both of Conservation International, during a brief one week visit made to Kekwa Village in September 1998. Mr. Peter Ebsworth, who has been observing the birds in the tropical climax forest at Kuala Kencana (the upper limit of Kamoro territory) for the past several years, and researchers in the 1997 Freeport Biodiversity Study have compiled the most complete list for this inland area. For much of Kamoro-land, the field is still open for serious bird watchers seeking pioneer status.


While the mangrove eco-system, called the mangal, holds a relatively depauperate avifauna, the Kamoro territory also encompasses the coast of the Arafura Sea with its beach and seabirds. And on the landward side of the mangal, their homeland’s hunting and gathering area reaches well into the lowland rainforest, the richest birding grounds on this island for diversity. This area falls into one of the half dozen major geographical divisions of Irian Jaya, based on the location of mountains which act as a barrier to most bird species. Our southwest sector hosts three star-ranked specialties in the avifauna: the White-Bellied Pitohui, the Greater Bird of Paradise and Wallace’s Fruit Dove.  


The recent influx of immigrants from the western parts of Indonesia has created a market in Timika for pets of the brighter plumed species such as lories and parrots. Many of the birds sought for sale, as well as several of those traditionally hunted, figure on the endangered list. These birds’ survival problems stem from the large number of recent transmigrants (since the mid-1980’s), attracted by Freeport’s infrastructure and the area’s job opportunities. The new arrivals require the clearing of large areas of rainforest. And a number of them are aggressively and cleverly making forays to seek birds for sale in the surrounding rainforest which has already been logged out. And in spite of  Freeport’s regulations expressed regulations against shipping birds out of the area, many make their way west thanks to a lack of enforcement (especially as far as sea shipping is concerned), no ecological awareness and indifferent officials. Thus hunting of all kinds of colorful birds goes on, using traps, snares, slingshots and air rifles. Only the fact that shotguns are illegal lessens the carnage. But even with uncontrolled hunting, many of the larger species which have become rare across the border in Papua New Guinea are still common and easily observable throughout the area. Examples include the Greater Bird of Paradise, Blyth’s Hornbill, the Palm Cockatoo, the Vulterine Parrot, along with large pigeons such as the Pinon, Zoe and the Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeons.


While the Kamoro distinguish between the larger birds by assigning them different names, the smaller ones are lumped together into a one-word category, even if the flesh or the birds is eaten. For example, various plovers and similar looking birds are all called ‘earo’; most ground pigeons go under the designation of ‘tepariero’; various pigeons are generally termed ‘periero’ or ‘paruru’; and many lorries, the smaller parrots and other similarly sized birds fall under the category of ‘iti’ or ‘peko’ without individual names for the various species. An exception is made for the Metallic Starling, Aplonis metallica, named ‘boo’. A relatively small critter, the bird nevertheless provides much appreciated meals, especially for young boys. The birds seasonally flock to swampy areas at dusk. The boys hide there and use long, thin branches to bat them down. The birds are quickly roasted and eaten.


The Kamoro hunt birds with bow and arrows made from the rib of the sago palm fronds. For the large and potentially very dangerous cassowary, their hunting dogs run down the flightless birds which are killed with spears. Aside from the cassowary, birds are usually hunted opportunistically as when the Kamoro spend a few days in the swaps to make sago or on an inland fishing trip. To capture birds alive, sticky tree sap is liberally smeared at perching and nesting sites. 


The cassowary: a bad-tempered beast

The Southern Cassowary is known as Casuarius casuarius to ornithologists and ‘petuu’ to the Kamoro. Looking like a cross between an ostrich and a turkey, this large, flightless bird is the biggest endemic animal to New Guinea. Standing up to 1.7 meters and weighing in at 60 kilos, this bird presents a head topped by high, thin and hard curved casque. Two grotesque wattles hang way down from its neck which comes in a kaleidoscope of colors: red, orange, blue and sometimes with yellow added to the palette. Their forest habitat provides plenty of fallen fruit, the animal’s staple. The cassowaries are cursed with lots of meat, large eggs, strong femur bones and coarse, shiny black feathers, all eagerly sought by the Kamoro.  The femur bones formerly made, long and strong stabbing knives while the feathers serve as personal ritual decorations. Hunted with dogs and spears, the Kamoro are well aware that these birds can deliver a fatally eviscerating kick. While cassowaries in the wild are shy, captive ones should be treated with lots of respect. If you are close to one of these pugnacious, ill-tempered beasts, look out if it emits a growl, claps its bill rapidly and raises its rump feathers. Time to leave it alone. Although human deaths at the receiving end of cassowary claws are not frequent, several Kamoro know of hunters who met their Maker by evisceration. 


Two mound-builders and a quail

These birds build large mound-nests, up to three meters high, made up of sand, earth and leaves. But after all the hard work of making these nests, the female forgets about her offspring. The eggs are hatched thanks to the heat generated by the rotting vegetation and the precocious baby can immediately fend for itself with no help from mom or dad. But the nests are easy giveaways for monitor lizards and man, so not too many chicks make it to the hatching stage.


The Common Scrubfowl is scientifically known as Megapodius reinwardt and ooko to the Kamoro. This chicken-sized bird, needs its outsized feet for mound-building. The Red-billed Bush Turkey, alias Talegalla cuvieri (T. fuccirostris?) or ‘wautu’, calls attention to itself with what the Kamoro say is a loud voice and more poetically described as penetrating, with the quality of a donkey’s bray. Our bird stands up to about a half meter, sports a black bill and runs around on pastel-toned orange legs. Both species of mound-builders provide the Kamoro with tasty meat and good-sized eggs.


The Kamoro identified the Brown Quail (Coturnix australis) from a colored drawing, calling it atamaropone. Knowing that this bird’s habitat was dense grass, I expressed some skepticism to my informants as I not seen this type of vegetation in the area. They forcefully insisted that they were familiar with quail, flushing them out for meat and looking for their eggs. Using the Indonesian language, they called this bird ‘burung rumput’ (grass bird), so I became convinced that they really did know this quail. Peter Ebsworth later confirmed that the bird does occur in this neck of the woods, or rather neck of the eco-system: in grassy clearings within and at the edge of forested areas around Timika and Kuala Kencana. Standing under 20 cm., the dull-colored bird weighs in as the largest of the low-elevation quails. Not a whole lot of meat when compared with some of other hunted species but still a welcome alternate source of protein to the fish staple.


Sea, swamp, river: water birds

Two species of cormorants are opportunistically hunted for meat. The Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos, ‘buriako’), and the Great Cormorant (P. carbo, ‘mameta’). Both are quite large birds, the Great Cormorant up to 80 cm. and the Little one maxing out at 60 cm. The rarer ‘buriako’ lives in both marine and freshwater environments and diets on fish. The more common ‘mamota’ hangs out around swamps, rivers and the coast, picking up crustaceans for a living. The Darter (Anhinga melanogaster, ‘muriako’) presents a similar appearance to the cormorants. Slightly larger, its slender neck and pointed bill distinguished it from the hook-billed cormorants. This bird is also hunted for its meat.


The Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia), the Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus), and the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis fecinellus) were all called ‘toko’. The Great Egret, (Egretta alba), the ‘wiako’ is hunted for its meat and feathers used for decorations.


A seasonal visitor from down under, the Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is so obvious that even the most ignorant bird watcher (myself) can quickly identify this large bird. The Kamoro call it ‘aimau’. I have seen large aggregations, up to a couple hundred individuals, on sand bars close to the coast and estuary mudflats. The birds provide an impressive spectacle by flying in slow, majestic, impressive formations above the beach or a short ways out over the sea. Although I have never seen them fish here, their huge bill and prominent pouch give a clue to their feeding method: plunging straight down into the water from several dozen meters’ elevation, they scoop up fish into their pouch, to be eaten later, at their leisure. Its feathers are used for decorations.


The Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) was positively identified as ‘buriako’ and said to be eaten. A large bird, up to 80 cm. with a long neck and striking black-and-white pattern, so probably easy to identify. But Beehler states that it is found only in the extensive floodplains of the Trans-fly, from Merauke eastward to the Oriomo River. No records beyond this savanna country. Also in northern Australia, dispersing in postbreeding season - so perhaps to the Kamoro area?


Birds of prey

Some of the informants claim to have seen all eight of the perched goshawks show in Beehler, calling them all burung2 buas, Indonesian for wild, furious or savage. Three falcons were identified as pepero. I have serious doubts about the existence of all the goshawks and the falcons in this area. We do have the Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus), which I have personally seen, named ‘pitoko’. The Whistling Kite (H. sphenurus) was called ‘pepero’, as were the majority of the birds of prey shown in Beehler. The largest birds of prey, bigger than pepero-size, were called ‘pitoko’, including the White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).


Of pigeons and doves

The unique Southern Crowned Pigeon (Goura scheepmakeri) is the largest of three similar species which have spit up Irian Jaya into three mutually exclusive territories. The Western Crown Pigeon dominates from the Raja Ampat island off the western tip of Irian to Etna Bay on the south shore; and to the western limits of Cenderawasih Bay to the north. The Victoria Crowned Pigeon rules the roost in the rest of the north, including Biak and Yapen islands and on into PNG. Our southern species holds the ground on the island’s shoreline with the Arafura Sea, starting around Etna Bay in the west. This bird reaches 75 cm. and as its two cousins, comes topped off by a spectacular fan-crested crown, has a maroon breast and with blue-grey feathers covering the rest of the body. The Kamoro name for this pigeon-of-choice, ‘uu’, is based on their onomatopoeia for the bird’s call, rendered as ‘hoo’ or ‘hoon’ to western ears. Fruit is this bird’s staple in the undisturbed alluvial forest habitat. It has several fatal flaws which encourages hunting: the bird is rather tame and with a large, meaty body. Our pigeon also has a fatal attraction to leftovers after sago preparation, and this is well known to the Kamoro. Like shoots ducks in a gallery. Two other family members, the Emerald Ground Dove (Chacophaps indica) and Stephen’s Ground-Dove (C. stephani) as well as perhaps other species, are collectively called ‘umako’. The New Guinea Bronzewing (Henicophaps albifrons) rates a distinct name, ‘tapariero’.


Several cuckoo doves don’t qualify for separate names, all being called ‘tata’. All the fruit doves the Kamoro can lay their hands on are eaten and all are known as ‘umaoko’. There is a good market for the sale of these birds in Timika. The Orange-footed Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus aurantifrons, is relatively abundant in the mangrove swamps at the edge of the rainforest. Several imperial pigeons are also known and eaten. The general name for them is ‘papiero’ or ‘paruru’. We can also confirm the presence of the Pied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula bicolor, and the Collared Imperial Pigeon, D. muelleri. This latter attractive species breeds colonially in the mangrove swamp but its habitat extends to the freshwater swamp forest and the vicinity of lowland rivers. 


The brightest flock: lories, lorikeets, parrots and cockatoos

Linguistically, the Kamoro draw few distinctions between these bright-plumed birds where shocking red and bright green predominate. They are not overly impressed with dazzling colors: all are good to eat, and their eggs too. But too good to eat with the high prices these showy birds fetch in Timika. The larger parrots fall under the term ‘bao’ or ‘peko’. The smaller lorikeets are called ‘iti’, with the slightly larger ones named peko. The smaller parrots are also called ‘iti’, with the strange additional information that they make their homes inside ant nests. Dr. Bruce Beehler, (personal communication, 2000) confirmed this, with the only correction that it is not ants nests but termitaria which are used by pygmy parrots as nests. And the addition that forest kingfishers make their nests there as well. The termites built very obvious dark nests on the sides of tree trunks, a common sight in the tropical rain forest in the Timika area.


Two birds of this group are the linguistic exception to the catch-all names. And for obvious reasons: these are the most sought-after. The pure white Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Cacatua galerita, comes in at 40 cm.,  sports an identifying yellow-topped white crest and a finger-chopping, vicious short dark beak. Its cry is raucous to say the least and will drop branches and worse on disturbing visitors. While hunting these birds with firearms as in PNG is quite easy, the lack of these weapons in our area means that many are alive and well in Kamoroland where this cockatoo is called ‘akima’. The Kamoro only occasionally eat its flesh and use the feathers for various decorations. When a man walks in an unfamiliar part of the forest, he will wear a feather or two from the cockatoo as this will let the good spirits know that he is a Kamoro, thus deserving protection. The birds feel right at home in the Freeport town of Kuala Kencana where regulations forbid hunting. Sometimes, over a dozen species are seen very close to the central office building, feeding off insects or tree worms.  Or just sharpening their beaks.


A larger and even more comical Palm Cockatoo, Probosciger aterrimus, grows considerably larger than its Sulphur-crested cousin, also sports a distinguishing  erectile crest, but its body is just about all black with a red cheek patch. Its short but huge black steeply curved beak can snap bones but it usually saves its strength to break open the hardest of forest seeds, including those of the Teminalia and Canarium trees, as well of those of the pandanus and the palm nuts. The cry is just awful, a screeching one like a jackass. But the beast is also capable of a variety of sweet whistles, loud but sweet. The Kamoro call it ‘bopoko’ and eat its meat and use the black feathers for many kinds of ornaments.


The Kamoro have little interest in the kingfishers, the four known species all lumped together under the name ‘peata’: the Little Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kingfisher, and perhaps others. Ditto for Blue-tailed and Rainbow Bee-eaters, both named ‘bukuputa’.


Hornbills: the most obvious

Not being a birdwatcher, I was inordinately proud of my first identification: Blyth’s Hornbill, Rhyticeros plicatus, the Kamoro’s ‘komai’. Not that there is anything to be proud of: it’s the most obvious bird in the Kamoro pantheon. And out of the 44 species in the family, only Blyth’s lives in Irian. So if it’s a hornbill, it’s gotta to be this one. I have never been on any trip to the mangroves and vicinity where these birds were not seen frequently. Can’t miss: the large, 80 cm. black birds with white tails and a truly outsized bill topped by a long casque with the number of wrinkles corresponding to the age of the animal. (In Kalimantan, hornbill beaks were formerly sent to China as a valued trade item, to be carved by master craftsmen.) The female’s head is black while the male and youthful ones come with a white head and neck overlaid with orange. The birds make a very characteristic sound when flying, sounding like the chugging of a steam locomotive. They feed mostly on fruit, supplemented with large insects and small vertebrates in the forest canopy, with a habitat that includes swamps, lowland and hill forests. While they often fly in pairs, the hornbills are gregarious when not breeding. At courting time, it’s strictly by couples with the jealous male sealing the female in a tree hollow with only a small opening during incubation. He forages constantly to feed his mate, keeping her happy in a gilded cage. In many areas near human settlements, these hornbills have been wiped out, but these special birds are alive, well and content in Kamoroland. In this area they are seldom if ever hunted. Perhaps this is due to their longevity and monogamy. One informant stated that they respected the elderly (in Indonesian, this bird is called burung tahun-tahun, the bird of many years) and are reluctant to kill birds in love. But many Kamoro are not so romantic and kill the birds if given a half a chance.


The poisonous pitohui

When we looked at the illustrations of the pitohuis, one of the informants stated that the Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui nigescens) had poisonous feathers. I wrote down the information with more that a touch of skepticism, meaning to leave it out when I compiled this text. But I left it in at the end, with a sarcastic remark. That remark is now gone, thanks to a fascination elucidation (Beehler, personal communication 2000). It seems that at least some of the pitohuis do have poisonous feathers, as well as skin. This has only recently been known to science, making these birds the only poisonous one in the avifauna of the world. Dr. Beehler pointed out that the most poisonous of them all was the Pitohui dichrous. He speculated that the poison might deter snakes who sneak up to birds at night. Their forked tongue ‘tastes’ the feathers before going to work. But then, warned by its taste buds, the snake goes on to seek other prey, leaving the pitohui sleeping peacefully.


Showy headdresses: the Greater Bird of Paradise

All the various birds of paradise were given the general designation of ‘yau’ while decorations made from either the feathers or the whole dried body was called ‘moko’. The informants looking a Beehler’s book claimed that ‘many’ existed in their area. Without specifying species, the men said that the ‘wedding season - musim kawin in Indonesian is the expression they used - was in September and October. Formerly, when there was a strong demand for the skins (probably starting at the very end of the 19th century) many were killed with bows and arrows but now they are too far away from the villages and thus seldom hunted. During various rituals and at the annual Kamoro festival, headpieces of either feathers or whole birds seems fairly common. These seemed to be the Greater Bird of Paradise, based on the yellowish color of the tail feathers and the range of the bird.




The species of birds listed below are the results of various surveys in several Kamoro villages. Only the ‘useful’ birds are listed, those which are sought for meat, eggs or feathers. The identifications were based on illustrations in a book (Beehler, 1986). We list only those birds where the illustrated species were recognized and given a separate name, as opposed to a group name for several or many similar birds.


Accipiter soloenis, Aepypodius arfakianus, Aplonis metallica, Archboldia papuensis, Ardea sumatrana, Burhinus grallarius (?), Cacatua galerita, Cacatua pastinator, Casuarius benetti, Casuarius casuarinus, Centropus bernsteini, Charmosyna multistriata, Dacelo gaudichaud, Ducula bicolor, Ducula pinon, Eclectus roratus, Egretta ibis, Egretta picata, Esacus magnirostris, Gallicolumba beccari, Gallicolumba jobiensis Gallicolumba rufigula, Goura scheepmakeri, Hacyon sancta, Haematopus longirostris, Hemiprocne mystacea, Henicophaps albifrons, Ixobrychus flavicollis, Lorius hypoinochorus, Lorius lory, Megapodius reinwardt ?, Megapodius freycinet, Megacrex inepta, Mino anais, Mino dumontii, Numenius madagascariensis, Numenius minutus, Numenius phaeopus, Otidiphaps nobilis, Paradisea apoda, Paradisea minor, Pelecanus conspicillatus, Phalaropus lobatus, Phalocrocorax carbo, Phalocrocorax melaneulecos, Phalocrorocax sulcirostris, Philomachus pugna, Platalea regia, Pluvialis squatarola, Podargus papuensis, Porphyrio porphyrio, Probosciger aterrimus, Psittaculirostris desmarestii, Psittrichas fulgidus, Rallus torquatus, Reinwardtoena reinwardtii, Rhyticeros plicatus, Sterna sumatrana, Tadorna radja, Talegalla jobiensis, Tallegala cuvieri ?, Tanygnathus megalorynchus, Threskiornis aethiopicus and Zonerodius heliosylus.  



List from Peter Ebsworth for common species probably found in the mangrove area:

1. Orange-footed Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus aurantiifrons

2. Collared Imperial Pigeon, Ducula muelleri

3. Red-flanked Lorikeet, Charmosyna placentis

4. Palm Cockatoo, Probisciger aterrimus

5. Lesser Black Coucal, Centropus bernsteini

6. Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Halcyon torotoro

7. Black-thicket Fantail, Rhipidura maculipectus

8. Broad-billed Flycather, Myiagra ruficollis

9. Roufus-banded Honeyeater, Conopophila albogularis

10. Singing Starling, Aplonis cantoroides


List of Birds seen in the Kekwa Village area  - south coast of Irian Jaya -[4º 45.298’ S and 136º 30.199’ E]  by Conservation International's Ary Suhandi and Dr. Yance de Fretes; no special efforts were made for bird watching, just what was seen in the course of travel in the mangrove swamps and along the coast. 12-19 Sept. 1998

Scientific name - English common name - Kamoro name

Note that some of the Kamoro names sometimes apply to several similar-looking birds.

1. Alcedo pusilla - Little Kingfisher - Peata

2. Cacatua galerita - Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Akima

3. Calidris canutus - Red Knot - Earo

4. Charadrius leschenautii - Large Sand Plover - Earo

5. Charmosyna placentis - Red-flanked Lorikeet - Iti

6. Coracina boyeri - Boyer's Red Cuckoo-shrike - Paota

7. Corvus orru - Torresian Crow - Koromo

8. Dicrurus hottentottus - Spangled Drongo - Kuru

9. Ducula bicolor - Pied Imperial Pigeon - Taaro

10. Eclectus roratus - Eclectus Parrot - Bao

11. Egretta alba - Great Egret - Wiako

12. Egretta ibis - Cattle Egret - Wiako

13. Egretta sacra - Eastern Reef Egret - Wiako

14. Egretta garzetta - Little Egret - Wiako

15. Eulabeornis castaneoventris - Chesnut Rail - Bukuputa

16. Fregata ariel - Lesser Frigatebird - ???

17. Gygis alba - White Tern - Waro

18. Halcyon chloris - Collared Kingfisher - Peata

19. Haliastur indus - Brahminy Kite - Pepero

20. Larus ridibundus - Common Black-headed Gull - Waro

21. Lorius lory- Western Black-capped Lory - Iti

22. Macropygia amboinensis - Brown Cuckoo Dove - Teta

23. Megapodius sp. (freycinet?) - Scrubfowl - Ooko

24. Merops ornatus - Rainbow Bee-eater - Bukuputa

25. Monarcha axillaris (?) - Black Monarch - Tere-Tere (or) Baikole

26. Myzomela obscura - Dusky Myzomela - Pipit Madu (?)

27. Nectarinia jugularis - Yellow-bellied Sunbird - Pipit Madu (?)

28. Numenius phaeopus - Whimbrel - Okamako

29. Pelecanus conspicillatus - Australian Pelican - Kaimu

30. Phalacrocorax melanoleucos - Little Pied Cormorant - ???

31. Philemon buceroides - Helmeted Friarbird - Po

32. Ptiloris magnificus - Magnificent Riflebird - Yaumoko

33. Rhipidura leucophrys - Willie Wagtail - Teretere (or) Kawaokro

34. Rhipidura leucothorax - White-bellied Thicket Fantail - Teretere

35. Rhipidura rufifrons - Rufous Fantail - Teretere

36. Rhyticeros plicatus - Blyth's Hornbill - Komai

37. Sterna albifrons - Little Tern - Kimurita

38. Sterna bengalensis - Lesser Crested Tern - Waro

39. Sterna hirundo - Common Tern - Kimurita

40. Tadorna radjah - White-headed Shelduck - Buriako

41. Tringa stagnatilis - Marsh Sandpiper - Earo


Mammals of Kamoroland

The Kamoro claim to have seen the Long-beaked Echidna, Zaglossus bruijnii in Indonesian, babi dari gunung, the pig from the mountains. The animal is toothless, with a long trunk-like bill-mouth to slurp up worms. This customer is the largest monotreme in the world. Fascinating egg-laying mammalian beasts but unimportant to the Kamoro as its habitat is in the mountains, outside their area.


The marsupials

Not all the families of marsupials are found in Kamoroland and the number of species is restricted. Nevertheless them form a minor but delicious part of the Kamoro diet. Except for wallabies, all marsupials tend to be nocturnal, just to be safe. This helps up to a point but the Kamoro use their brains and set noose traps for catching their hors d’oeuvres.


The Kamoro are familiar with three species of dasyurids, all of which are eaten, but only very occasionally. The Long-nosed Antechinus, scientifically called Antechinus naso, has been rendered in Indonesian as Tikus Berkantung Hidung Panjang. The Kamoro have observed this animal diving into water to catch fish. The Short-furred Dasyure, Murexia longicaudata, is the Indonesian Tikus Berkantung Ekor Panjang and ‘puraka’ to the Kamoro. The Broad-striped Dasyure, Murexia Rothschildi, has no Indonesian common name, making its presence in our area somewhat suspect. The Kamoro however insist that they have seen the animals, although very infrequently. They call it ‘buutu’, the same name as the first of the dasyurids from above. 


Found only in Australia, New Guinea and the immediate vicinity, several bandicoots are hunted by the Kamoro. Their names tend to be the same as for the similar-looking dayurids. These bandicoots include the largest of the lot, Clara’s Echympera (Echympera clara), a very long-snouted animal which can weight over a couple of kilos. The males sport large, mean-looking canines: not a good place for human hands or other limbs. The Kamoro call it ‘puruka’. The Common Echympera (Echympera kalubu) is called ‘buutu’ and hunted. The Kamoro have observed this animal in the water, looking for fish. These two customers are also known as spiny bandicoots. Another of the same family, Raffray’s Bandicoot, Peroryctes raffrayana is recognized by the Kamoro under the name ‘kemako’. It is sometimes eaten by children who catch the animal when it is hiding in the roof thatch, hoping to ‘steal’ fish from the household.  This is best traveled and thus most wide-spread member of the family.


Several tree kangaroos range in the Kamoro lands. While the Freeport diversity survey team sighted a Doria’s Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus dorianus) in the project area, this animals was not recognized by the Kamoro. The hunters identified the Brown Dorcopsis (Dorcopsis muelleri) with the word ‘panaro’. This is the western forest wallaby. The Kamoro said that they were also familiar with the Small Dorcopsis (Dorcopsulus vanheurni), calling the animal lao-lao in Indonesian and ‘painaro’ in their language. The literature states that this animal is only found from 800 to 3100 meters. Either the Kamoro or the literature is wrong.


The Kamoros’ other indigenous mammal prey includes various species of cuscus, a kind of thick-furred, tree-dwelling marsupial of the Phalangeridae family. The Southern Common Cuscus (Phalanger intercastellanus), an animal which can weight up to two kilos, is familiar to the Kamoro as ‘wake’. They use the same name for the Northern Common Cuscus (P. orientalis) where its common English name would put it out of range. The Kamoro say that they have seen the Silky Cuscus, P. sericeus, also called ‘wake’, a species which is not supposed to exist in their area. All cuscus live most of their lives high up in the forest canopy, enjoying a fat-free diet of leaves and fruit. Aside from hunting, it is logging and clearance for agriculture which poses the greatest threat to the cuscus’ existence. 


While some doubts may be expressed about the presence of the above three species in Kamoroland on linguistic grounds (why do they not have different names?) there is none for the Common Spotted Cuscus, Spilocuscus maculatus. Called ‘yau-wake’ by the Kamoro, we have seen captives in several villages. The Kamoro state that the animals is quite common, reinforced by the literature which states that this cuscus is found in virtually all the lowland areas of the island and often abundant. While elsewhere it has been reported as pure white or ash-grey, the animals we have seen were all ginger-colored and mottled. The literature states that males are usually whitish with brown or dark spots, the females white or pale on the head and shoulders and the rear portions brown or black. On the south coast (that’s us) the coloration tends to a dark brown or grayish with almost black markings. With its weight up to a delicous four kilos, this cuscus makes the Kamoro hanker for its flesh. Strips of the pelt are used for traditional head decorations. 


The Feather-tailed Possum, Distoechurus pennatus, (Family Acrobatidae) is called oposum ekor bulu (feather-tailed opossum), although the Kamoro called it ‘tupai’ (squirrel) in Indonesian and ‘kemare’ in their language. The common names come from the animal’s most distinctive feature: a practically bare tail with a single row of long, still hairs on each side: just like a feather.


‘Kamare’, the same name as the one used for the feather-tailed possum, is applied, along with ‘pako’ and ‘wiripauwiri’ to the sugar glider, Petaurus breviceps.  The informants stated that these animals are quite common. In Indonesian, they called it ‘tupai kelapa’ or coconut squirrel. (Note: my dictionary states that tupai usually means squirrel but it can also be used for a rat living in coconut trees.) The Striped Possum, Dactylopsila trivirgata is said to eat coconuts and be able to ‘fly’, probably meaning to glide. It is familiar to the Kamoro under the name’wiripauwiri’, the same as the sugar glider.  Bright-eyed and literally bushy tailed, this possum weighs up to a half a kilo: not much of a meal, but still worth the effort. The other two animals listed above are too small for most Kamoro to bother with. All three animals have stripes of varying shapes and colors, which may have confused the Kamoro identification teams.


Rats and bats

The Muridae or rat family has at least a half dozen representatives in Kamoroland, most of which are eaten. The Common Water Rat, Hydromys chrysogaster, Tikus Air Biasa, is called kemaare’ and eaten. The Black-tailed Melomys, Melomys rufescens, is Melomys Biasa (common) to Indonesians and ‘kemako’ to the Kamoro - it is seldom if ever  eaten. The Chestnut Tree-mouse, Pogonomys macrourus, Tikus Pohon Rusuk Merah (red-sided tree mouse) is called also called ‘kemako’. The Kamoro know that it makes its nest in trees and some of them eat the beast. All of them love to eat what they identified as the delicious kilo-sized Rock-dwelling Giant Rat, Xenuromys barbatus, Tikus Batu and’puruka’ to our friends. Ditto for the same-named Eastern Rat, Rattus mordax, commonly eaten although not quite so delightful-tasting. The Large Spiny Rat, Rattus praetor, called ‘kemako’, is also consumed. The Small Spiny Rat, Rattus steini, has a different Kamoro name, ‘munoro’. It is also eaten.


Large aggregations of flying foxes round out our round out our list of mammals eaten by the Kamoro. Spending their days hanging upside down by the hundreds in selected trees, they are easy prey to the Kamoros’ arrows. At sundown each day, the flying foxes take off to feed, mostly on fruit. From the photo in Flannery’s book these were identified by the Kamoro as the Greater Flying Fox, Pterupus neohibernicus, which they called ‘tako’. They use the same word for other species of fruit bats found in their area. These include the Great Bare-backed Fruit-bat, Dobsonia mangna, Kalong magna; the Lesser Bare-backed Fruit Bat, D. minor, Kalong minor; the Northern Blossom Bat, Macroglossus minimus, Codot Madu kecil (also eaten); the Common Tube-nosed Bat, Nyctimene albiventer, Codot Hidung Dua Biasa; the Spectacled Flying Fox, Pteropus conspicillatus, Kalong kecamata (trapped and also killed with arrows); the Rousette Bat, Rousettus amplexicaudatus, Codot Roset Kelabu and the Common Blossom Bat, Syconycteris australis. For a yet-unknown reason, two other bats of the same family, Pteropodidae, go under a different name: ‘karpaki. These are the Mountain Tube-nosed Bat, Nyctimene certans, Codot Hidung Dua Panjang in Indonesian but which the Kamoro call by the common Indonesian name for larger bats, kelelawar; and the Unstriped Tube-nosed Bat, Paranyctimene raptor, Codot Hidung Dua Gigi Panjang. (as yet, no information if this species is eaten or not.) 


While are an essential wealth and status symbol in the highlands, very few Kamoro keep pigs. However, they hunt them with a vengeance, for their principal remaining ritual, the karapao, always incorporating a pig hunt. Successful hunters are showed with esteem and, often, the affection of the opposite sex. Their favorite pig-killing technique requires the cutting down of a sago tree which serves to attract the Kamoros’ favorite protein: wild pig. The trunk has to be split open, followed by a short wait, or there is no sago tree left - or pigs either. A week is enough. Armed with long spears ending with locally made metal tips (often forged from Freeport scrap metal), the men and their hunting dogs run down the sago-satiated animals. Noose traps are also used to catch pigs, and many other animals. While wild pigs are still plentiful, the wallaby, bandicoot and cuscus populations are fast shrinking in the Timika area, due to an insatible market.


The mammals identified by the Kamoro from illustrations are follows:

Montremes, marsupials and rodents:

Antechinus habbema, Antechinus melanurus, Antechinus naso, Cercartetus caudatus, Dactylopsila megalura, Dactylopsila palpator, Dactylopsila trivirgata, Dasyurus albopunctatus, Dasyurus spartacus, Distoechurus pennatus, Dorcopsis hageni, Dorcopsis muelleri, Dorcopsulus vanheurni, Echmipera clara, Echmipera kalabu, Melomys lutillus, Melomys mollis, Melomys platyops, Microperoryctes longicauda, Murexia longicauda, Murexia rothschildi, Myoictis melas, Perocyctes raffrayana, Peroryctes broadbenti, Petaurus breviceps, Phalanger breviceps, Phalanger gymnotis, Phalanger intercastellanusPhalanger matamin, Phalanger vestitus, Phalanger sericeus, Pogonomys sylvestris, Rattus praetor, Sminthopsis virgiiae, Spilocuscus maculatus, Spilocuscus rufoniger.



Aproteles bulmerae, Dobsonia magna, Dobsonia minor, Macroglossus minimus, Nyctimene aello, Nyctimene albiventer, Nyctimene certans, Nyctimene draconilla, Paranyctimene raptor, Pteropus conspicillatus, Pteropus hypomelanus, Pteropus macrotis, Pteropus neohibernicus, Pteropus scapulatus, Rousettus amplexicaudatus, Syconycteris australis, Syconycteris hobbit



*****Maps to be done, but use the Kamoro area&project area ones already done, plus an overall.



Appendix I: Glossary of Scentific terms

Any scientific terms unfamiliar to the reader with good general education will usually be found in the text after the first use of the term.


abreviations: PNG, mya, UNDP, WWF


achene: a small, dry indehiscent one-seeded fruit developing from a single ovary and    usually having a thin pedicarp attached to the seed at one point only.

adder: common name applied to various species of snakes, often (but now always)     poisonous, as vipers

adephaga: one of the two main divisions of the beetles

agamid: family of lizards, most with dorsal crest, thoat sacs and long limbs

alkaloid: 7 or higher on the pH scale; basic as opposed to acidic

allantois: in tetrapod embryos, a sac formed by the outgrowth of the posterior ventral part of the gut, as a precocious urinary bladder.

            1. In reptiles and birds it grows to surround the embryo, lying between the yolk           sac and the shell; the blood vessels by which it is lined to the embryo provides       the means of respiration and the allantoic cavity receives metabolic wastes;            most of the allantois is left with the shell at hatching.

            2. In the placental mammals, the allantois forms part of the placenta, supplying             it with  blood for respiration, nutrition, and excretion; most of the allantois is             detached from the embryo at birth.

allele : one of a group of genes that occur alternatively at a given spot on a chromosome;         either of a pair of alternate characteristics, such as smooth or wrinkled skin.

alluvial: deposition and accumulation of natural materials by running water

amnion: layer of cells surrounding the embryo of reptiles, birds and mammals

amphibians: a class of animals which include frogs, toads and salamanders

angiosperms: flowering, fruit-producing seed plants; the most highly evolved plants

anurans: frogs and toads; tail-less amphibians

aphids: soft-bodied insects that feed on plant sap; many species are tended by ants     which feed on the aphids’ excretion, called honeydew

arthropods: a huge and highly diverse group of animals with jointed limbs; insects,        crustaceans and spiders; they make up some 75% of all described animal species

austral : referring to the south

Austronesians : a linguistic and cultural designation referring to the inhabitants of           most of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malyasia and Polynesia. They are        sometimes called Malayo-Polynesians.

bacteria: prokaryotes with their simple unicellular architecture lacking nuclei and          other organelles and forming the Kingdom Bacteria; bacteria are really the         dominant form or life on earth, always have been, always will be; they are             more abundant, more indestructible, more diverse in biochemistry (if not in      complexity in outward form), and inhabit a greater range of environments             than all other forms of life combined.

bandicoot : a type of marsupial with and elongated snout and two toes of the hind foot            bound together.

basalt: dark grey to black dense to fine-grained igneous rack

binomial: two names; used in scientific names, as in Homo sapiens; the first word is     the genus, always capitalized and the second is the species; usually written in            italics, sometimes underlined

biomass: total mass of all living organism, usually expressed in dry weight or as the       carbon, nitrogen or calorific content per unit area

biota: plants and animals occupying a place together

birthwort: a family of climbing plants with a few herbs, Aristolochiaceae

bivalve: a type of mollusk with two shells enclosing the soft body parts

blastocoel: a cavity that appears during embryonic development in animals at the end  of the egg cleavage; it is found within the mass of cells that make up the blastula        and is filled with fluid.

blastocyst: mammalian embryo at the stage at which, after cleavage, it is implanted in   the wall of the uterus; consisting of a thin-walled, hollow sphere called the    trophoblast which encloses a blastocoel; attached to the inner surface of the             trophoblast at one end there is a sheet of cells that will become the embryo      proper.

bog: wet, spongy, poorly drained ground, usually rich in plant residues, frequently        surrounding a body of open water, and having characteristic flora such as sedges, heaths and sphagnum

bole: tree trunk

bromelid: a type of monocot herb, mostly as epiphytes, with crowded leaves forming a            base tank from which water is absobed; these ‘tanks’ often hold a variety of   organisms in the tropical rain forest, including small frogs

bryphyte: a plant division which includes mosses and liverworts

canopy: the uppermost section of a forest

carbodydrate: various compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, such as             sugars, starches and celluloses, most of which are formed by green plants.

carnivore: meat eating

carpel: female reproductive organ in flowers, made up of an ovary with a style tipped by the stigma

cellulose: an insoluable polysaccaride, the principal structural material of plants and as such the most abundant organic compound in the world

chiropteans : bats

chrysomelids: beetles of the family Chrysomelidae, small, usually oval, shiny and          brightly colored.

cleavage: process by which the fertilized egg gives rise to all the cells or the organism; in animals, this forms a cellular mass called a blastula.

colloids: small organic or inorganic particles with large surface area per unit volume;     substance composed of two homogenous phases, one of which is dispersed in         the othere; with referenct to soil, very small particles of organic or inorganic          matter with a large surface area in relation to volume; they exhibit an    instability controlled by soil chemistry

commensal: on organism living with another and thus benefiting without affecting          its host; contrasted with parasite and mutually benefical associations

cotyledon: seed leaf borne on a plant embryo

crossoptrygians: ancient line (subclass) of bony fishes, predatory and lobe-finned or    tassel-finned, which began air breathing and are considered ancestral to the   amphibians thus subsequently to all tetrapods; the sole survivor of this line is             the coelocanth, thought long extinct, but re-discovered in 1938 and subsequently,        first off the coast of Africa and then off north Sulawesi.

crustacea: arthropods with two pairs of antennae and two-branched limbs adapted to a           wide range of functions

cryovegetation: plants in very cold places; from the Greek cry- meaning cold or           freezing

crysalid: pupa of a butterfly; the pupa is the intermediate and usually quiescent stage of            a metamorphosing insect that occurs between the larva and the imago, usually           enclosed in a cocoon or case, and undergoes internal changes by which larval      structures are replaced by those typical of the imago which is the insect in its    final, adult, sexually mature and typically winged phase.

culm: a segmented aerial axis that emerges from a rhizone and forms a  part of a          gramineous plant; ususally in reference to bamboos

cycad: ancient gymnosperm plants with leaves and habit similar to palms but usually     smaller in size


dasyurid : a type of marsupial, looking superficially like rats, with all toes all free (as     opposed to being bound together, as with bandicoots, possums and wallabies           whose second and third toes are bound together.

decapod: literally meaning ‘ten legs’ and applied to the best known crustaceans: crabs,            lobsters, crayfish and shrimp

diapsid : two-arched, referring to the bony arches with temporal openings, found in     the sides of the skull of some animals, mostly  reptiles

dicot: plants whose embryo has two seed leaves called cotyledons

echidna: an egg-laying mammal of the Tachyglossidae family, also called ant-eaters;     they are toothless and with a long snout

ecotone: a transition area between two ecological communities usually exhibiting          competition between organisms common to both

ectothermic: animals that maintains its body temperature by its behavior, such as          sunning or seeking shade; terrestrial repitles

endemic: found only in a particular location

endocarp: a distinct layer in the fruit wall, along with the exocarp and the mesocarp

endophyte: a plant living within another plant

epiphytes: plant using another one, typically a tree, for support; includes orchids and    bromelids

estuarine: referring to the mouth of a river

eukaryote: organism with cells having a distinct, membrane-enveloped nucleus; the      first ones were green algae

eutheria: infraclass holding the placentals; the blasocyst develops an outer layer of cells            which surrounds a small inner group from which the embryo develops; this is             retained in the uterus, nourished by means of an allantoic placenta, and born in       an advanced stage of development.

evolution: change in successive generations of organism; descent modification; driven   by mutations and natural selection leading to the ‘survival of the fittest’      (although the meaning of fittest is not always apparent

fauna: referring to animals

fern: flowerless plants with mostly large, much-divided leaves; two distinct       generation: a non-sexual, spore-bearing (sporophyte) one then a sexual,            gemetophyte generaton

flora: referring to plants

fossorial: burrowing

fungus (fungi) major group of organisms that lack chloropyll and include molds, rusts, mildews, smuts, mushrooms and yeasts

gamete: a specialized haploid cell (sex cell) whose nucleus and often cytoplams fuses   with another gamete from the opposite sex in the process of fertilization

gametophyte: haploid phase in the life cycle of plants during which the gametes are      produced by mitosis

gastropod: a class in the mollusk phylum, including snails and slugs, with a true             head, an unsegmented body and a broad, flat foot; when present, the shell is         usually spirally coiled.

genus (genera): taxonomic level or grouping above species and below family

gestation: length of time between conception and birth

gramincea: members of the grass family or monocots; most are herbs, bus a few, such             as bamboos, are woody; from an ecological point of view, the most successful            family of flowering plants

gymnosperms: subdivision of the seed plants (Spermatophyta) in which the ovules are carried naked on the cone scales; in angiosperms they are enclosed in an ovary

haploid: term used for cells with one set of chromosomes (n), as in gametes; normal     somatic cells have twice this number (2n).

heath: a family of plants scientifically known as Ericaceae, shrubby dicotyledons and    often evergreen, thriving on open, barren and usually acid and badly drained        soils; an extensive area of level, open, uncultivated land usually badly drained,             poor soil and a surface rich in peat or peaty humus.

herbivore: plant-eating

hereptofauna: amphibians and reptiles

heterotropic: organism unable to manufacture its own food from simple chemical          compounds (as plants do) and so must consume living or dead organisms as its    main source of carbon; these organisms include all animals and fungi, meaning             the organisms which do not have the ability to photosynthesize to obtain          energy, as plants can and do. 

humus: decomposed organic matter of the soil; surface organic soil

hyphae:  hair-like projections

igneous: rock formed by solidified magma

indehiscent: fruits remaining closed at maturity.

keystone species (see under species)

larva: stage of life in an animal during which it can move and feed itself; this occurs       after hatching from the egg and before the body reorganizations needed to      become an adult.

lepidote: botanical term meaning covered in small scales which could be modified        leaves.

lichen: a composite organism made up of a fungus and an algae or cyanobacterium      living in symbiotoc association

lignotubers: woody tubers

limestone: a rock that if formed chiefly by the accumulation of organic elements (such   as shells and coral) consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, extensively used in          building and yielding lime when burned.

litoral: referring to the sea-shore

liverwort: plants whose spore-bearing structures are ususally oval and lidless; they are             often flattended and show no differentiation between stem and leaves


marine: referring to the ocean or sea

marsupials: order of mammals with very little development of the embryo inside the      mother which crawls out of the mother to a pouch called the marsupium and    attaches itself to a teat for the duration; the other animals, the majority, are       usually called placentals.

Meganesia : Australia, New Guinea and the Aru Islands, all on the same tectonic plate.

megapods : mound-nest building birds

mesothorax: the second thoracic segment in the body of an insect; it bears a pair of legs          and sometimes a pair of wings

metatheria: infraclass holding the marsupials; egg yoke with thin shell to protect it         from maternal antigens; placental development usually very limited; also different from placentals in their dentition.

mollusk: members of the phylum Mollusca, invertebrates with bilateraly symmetry,       usually with secreted shell material which may be univalve, bivalve  or plated;        some have shells modified as an internal skeleton; most are gastropods or             bivalves

monocot: a plant in one of the two divisions of the angiosperms (seed or flowering       plants) in which characteristically the embryo has one cotyledon.

monotremes : egg-laying mammals

montane: adjective applied to mountains

morphology: form and structure of an individual organism

moss: class of plants  which have a gametophyte which is differentiated into stem and   leaves; the leaves are generally one cell thick

mya: abbreviation for million years ago

mycorrhiza: close association between a fungus and plant root, allowing more efficient             nutrient uptake by the root

mycrohylid: a frog (Microhylidae) which shows considerably morphological variation   and live in a wide variety of habitats; the group presents difficulties in      identification as complexes of closely related ones can only be separated by their         particular calls, and here the differences are so slight as to make it a tough task to           define separate species.

myobactrachids: frog family which is restricted to the Papuan-Australian area; the   species are inconspicuous, medium sized and dull brown.

myrmecodia: a herb genus in the Rubiaceae family in which the stem forms a    swollen chamber inhabited by ants

myrmecophilous: ants-loving


nematode: of a class of unsegmented worms varying greatly in size from microscopic   (most) to five cm. ; some are parasites in plants and animals, some free-living

nitrogen: an element essential to all plant life; its chemical propreties are especially        important in the structures of proteins and nucleic acids

nomenclature: a system of terms used in a particular science (also applies to art and     various discipline), especially the international system of standarized Latin           names used in biology and zoology for groups of plants and animals.

nuchal : of the neck

nudibranch: a marine gastropid in which the shell and mantle carvity are absent;           many have projections from the body surface; they are quite colorful,             advertising the fact that they are poisonous.

oligotrophic: waters poor in nutrients and with low primary production; as opposed to             eutrophic, which was originally applied to nutrient-rich waters of high   productivity but now used for soils as well.

omnivore: eating of everything, plants as well as animals

ontogeny: development of an individual from fertilzation of the egg to adulthood

ophiolite: uplifted oceanic crust; charactersitic assemblage of rocks formed at ocean floor        spreading ridges (ophiolite sequence); pure basic or ultrabasic intrusitions from     the earth’s mantle into major structural and sedimentational segments of the   crust; igneous (volcanic) rock layer of mafic and ultramafic composition whose            components include basalt, gabbro and peridotite, rich in serpentine,          chlorite, epidote and albite derived by later metamorphism - all these influence           soil composition and hence vegetation.

orchids: perennial herbs with rhizomes, and sometimes totally saprophytic; many          tropical species are epiphytes with pendant roots which absorb moisture from       the air; one of the most advanced and specialized families of monocots whose             members have a partial or total dependence on a symbiotic relation with a       fungus, called mycorrhiza; one of the largest angiosperm families, with over   17,500 species, centered in the tropics.

order: classification term used for a group of familes; various orders form a class

ornithophilous: bird-loving

oviparous: method of reproduction where the eggs are laid and the embryo develop    outide of the mother’s body; most invertebrates and many vertebrates reproduce this way.

ovovivparous: method of reproduction where the young develop from eggs retained    within the mother’s body but separated from it by the egg’s membranes; many         insect groups, fish and reptiles reproduce this way.

Pangaea : name given to the the single body eccompassing all of the land above water;            it broke up into the two supercontinents of Laurasea and Gondwanaland          starting around 200 mya. 

parasite: on organism which lives on or in a another and from which it obtains its          food or shelter, with no benefit to the host

passerine: small or medium-sized birds with grasping feet where the first toe is angled backwards; mostly songbirds; Order Passeriforms.

perciform: perch-like fish; size ranges from tiny gobies to giant marlins

perennial: plant which normally lives for more than two season and after which             produces flowers annually.

pericarp: the fruit wall, made up of the out exocarp, the mesocarp and the endocarp

phosphorus/phosphate: phosphorus is requried by plants, in the oxydized from as        orthophosphate whose special chemical propreties are utilized in reactions for             energy transfer involving ATP (adenosine diphosphate).

phylogenetic/phylogeny: based on evolutionary relationships; racial history of a kind     of organism; the evolution of a genetically related group or organisms as          distinguished from the development of the individual; phylogeny can also be a             technique to determine the order of branching from ancestral forms.

phylum (phyla): major grouping below kingdom and above class

physiognomy: form and structure of natural communties

placenta: organ in viviparous species which nourishes the embryo and removes waste products; formed by the fusion of embryonic and maternal tissues.

placental: animals with the organ placenta by which embryos of vivparous species are nourished and waste products removed, formed by the fusion of embryonic and         maternal tissues.

poikilothermic: organism such as a frog with variable body temperature which it           controls by physical position either in the sun when too cold or in the shade   when too hot; often called ‘cold-blooded’.

polyphaga, polyphagous: plant species feeding on a wide variety of other plants

prokaryote: single celled organism whick lacks a true nucleum and the DNA is present            as a loop in the cytoplasm rather than as chromosomes bounded by a nuclear       membrane.

proteins: essential constituents of all living cells, synthesized from simple elements by    plants though photosynthesis and follow up processes; assimilated as separate    amino acids by animals; extremely complex amino acids built up of the             elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, often with sulfur and      occasionally with phosporus, iron or other elements.

protothorax: the part of an insect thorax ( the thorax is the second body segment,        between the head and the abdomen) which is closest to the head; the next two         segments are called the mesothorax and the metathorax, the last one closest to         the abdomen.

pupa: life stage in the metamorphosis of insects during which the larval form is reorganized into the final, adult form; frequently inactive, forming a hard shell            (chrysalis) or silken covering (cocoon) around themselves while major body             changes take place leading to maturity.

raceme: an inflorescence in flowers where the main axis continues to grow, producing flowers laterally so that the youngest ones are apical, or at the center. 

radiation: biological evolution in a group of organisms that is characterized by   spreading into different environments and by divergence of structure.

ranid: frog, usually of the order Anura, the ‘true’ frogs

ratite: flightless, running bird such as the cassowary and the ostrich

rattan: climbing palm of the genus Calamus in which the stem is clothed in a spiny, tubular sheath, long and flexible, rarely short and erect; the largest of all palm genera.

rhipidistians: ancient line of bony fishes, one of the two groups in the    crossoptrygians, with a specialized subgroup which includes those forms     having a strong pectoral fin with the bones humerus, ulna and radius present;    this has led to the belief that these fishes might have been the ancestors of the      amphibians and thus of all land animals which are four-limbed, the tetrapods. 

rhizome: underground  horizontally creeping stem which bears roots and leaves and     which usually persists from season to season.

rhododendron: a genus of shrub or tree in the family Ericaceae, with big, scaly buds,    simple, alternate, mostly evergreen leaves and flowers borne on short racemes.

rodent: member of the largest group of mammals (nearly half), including rats and          mice; they are herbivorous or scavengers; the incisor teeth are reduced to one           pair in each jaw.

Sahul Shelf: continental plate which holds Australia, New Guinea and some (but not    all) the satellite islands, depending on the invervening depths; often contiental             shelves are definined as extending to the 200 m. underwater contour line.

saprophyte: a plant that feeds on dead plant or animal matter; an animal feeding this     way is called a sprozoite.

sarcophyte: a family of flies associated with carrion as this is where their larvae feed.

sarcopterygians: a group of lobe-finned fishes which includes the crossoptrygians and the Dipneusti (extant lungfishes and their fossil relatives)

scandent: characterized by a climbing mode of growth

scansorial: low climber, usually referring to frogs; higher climbers are aroboreal.

sclerophyll: vegetation with hard, drought-resistant leaves, typified by most eucalpts

sedges: perennial herbs, family Cyperaceae, especially of the genus Carex (also the genus       Cladium) that have rhizomes; often tufted marsh plants, different from the      related grasses in having achenes and solid stems.

shittake: mushroom-like fungus, Lentinula edodes, cultivated for food in Japan.

shrub: perennial woody plant, less than 10 meters tall, which branches below or near   ground level into several main stems, with no clear, single trunk.

skinks: family of terrestrial and burrowing lizards, with wedge-shaped heads,   streamlined and elongated bodies and limbs small or absent; mostly             insectivorous.

speciation: the separation of populations of plants and animals, which could interbreed,            into independent evolutionary units which can no longer interbreed due to the            accumulation of genetic differences.

species: a group of organisms that can only breed with its members to produce fertile offspring; two parts of a population can evolve into distict species only if some       sort of barrier prevents gene flow between them

            morphologica species: the smallest natural populations permanently      separated from each other by a distinct continuity of heritable characterstics     (morphology, beharior, biochemistry); the vast majority of species are still             described using ther morphological characteristics but this is slowly changing

            evolutionary species: a single-lineage ancestor-descendant population

            keystone species: those organisms so tightly interwoven into the food chain      that their removal has a significant effect such as extinction of others or a large      change in density of other organisms

spore: microscopic structure whose function is dispersal and reproduction; in   contrast with seeds which hold embryos

stridulation: sound produced by a ‘file’ rubbing across a membrane, by insects; one     wing can rub across the roughend surface of another wing or a file on the leg is     drawn across the edge of the wing; when many insects are doing this together,          the volume of the sound can be deafening.

subduction: the edge of one continental plate forces its way under another

Sunda Shelf: continental platform extending to about the 200m underwater contour      line, which holds south-east Asia, especially Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula,          and Borneo.

symbiosis: different organisms living together in close association of mutual benefit.

synusiae: distinct layers of vegetation composed of plants with similar life-forms

tarsi, tarsiers: family of arobreal, nocturnal, insectivorous or carnivorous primates,        about the size of rats.

taxon (pl: taxa) a group of organsims of any classifying rank, such as family, genus,      order, species.

taxonomy: scientific classification of organisms

tectonic: relating to the deformations in the crust of the earth or the forces producing    such deformations or the results of those forces.

tetrapod: vertebrate animals with four limbs

thecodonts/thecodontians: animals with teeth set in sockets, fused to the top of the jaw

toad: frogs, mostly terrestrial, generally squatter and shorter in build and especially       with rough, warty, rather than smooth skin; in scientific parlance, the term is   often restricted to the family Bufonidae, but no so in popular speech where the             wary skin is the dominant factor in the appellation. 

transmigrants: people who have migrated, both under official programs and under        their own, from overpopulated areas such as Java or south Sulawesi.

truffles: fruiting body of several European fungi of the genus Tuber; extensively used in             French cuisine; sought out by pigs or dogs as they are underground.

tundra: treeless plain of the Arctic and Antarctic, with low vegetation; although            grasses are rarely absent, sedges (Carex species), rushes (Juncus species) and wood    rushes (Luzula species) are the dominant plants, together with perennial herbs,            dwarf woody plants, various bryophytes and lichens.

vascular plants: members of the division Tracheophyta, with vascular tissues (xylem     and phloem) through which water and nutrients are transported.

vertebrates: animals with a vertebra, loosly the backbone(s), including amphibians,      reptiles, birds, fishes and mammals.

vine: a plant whose stem requries support and which climbs by tendrils or twining or    creeps along the ground

viviparous: method of reproduction in which the young are with the growth of the         embryo inside the mother’s body which nourishes it; live birth

wallaby: along with kangaroos, forming the superclass of macropods (big feet);           herbivores in which the lower incisors are directed forward and can be moved           against one another like shears; the molars are modified for intensive grinding             and the stomach has a sacculated, non-glandular rumen-like chamber containing symbionst.

weevil: common name for the beetles of the family Curculionidae, the largest one         with some 60,000 species; the larvae are legless, grub-like and usually found             inside a plant, or underground, at the roots; many are pests.

zooxenthellae: unicellular dinoflagellates that live symbiotically with certain corals          and other invertebrates such as giant clams.


Appendix II: Geological time scale


Eras -- Periods--- Epochs/Periods --- time frame --- earliest animals/plants


Hadean 4.65 Ga to 3.8 Ga


Precambrian or Archean: 4,500 mya (or, from 3.8 Ga) to 2.5 Ma: crust on   molten earth; 2 bya: first evidence of life/or 3.5 to 4 bya first life

Proterozoic Era 1.4 b to 570 Ma - marine algae, spores of uncertain relationship         invertebrates


Paleozoic Era starts 570 mya to 245 mya

Cambrian Period: starts: 570m mosses; abundant marine life

            All of the major phyla present in fossil record; oldest definite life forms; from    North Wales, Cambria to the Romans

Ordovician: (500mya) invertebrates and primitive jawless fishes

Silurian (408/440 mya) corals, shelled cephalopods; first jawed fishes

            colonization of land plants by arthropods

Devonian: (405/410 mya) vascular plants; 1st amphibians&insects

            diversification of telosts (bony fishes)

Carboniferous: 354/360 mya - extensive forests of vascular plants

    first reptiles: starts 310 mya but amphibians dominant

Permian: 280/290m; ginkgoes (280 mya); reptiles surpass amphibians

            mass extinction of marine invertebrates; origins of mammal-like reptiles and     ‘modern’ insects.


Mesozoic Era starts 240 mya to 66.4 or 65 mya

Triassic 240 mya: mammals; earliest dinosaurs; origin and diversification of ruling         reptiles; orgins of mammals; gymnosperms dominant

Jurassic: 205m; birds (180/210 mya): conifers and cycads; primitive birds

            dominance of ruling reptiles and origins of birds

Cretaceous: 140 mya (upper and lower) grasses&cereals; flowering plants

            at end of upper: placental mammals (135 mya); max dinosaurs then     extinct; small and primitive mammals; origins of angiosperms; at end,            extinction of many invertebrate groups and the ruling reptiles.


Cenozoic/Cainozoic (recent life) Era starts 65 mya

Tertiary Period: 65 mya to 1.6 or 2mya

Epochs: Paleocene(65 mya)>Eocene (starts 55 mya)>[Oligocene (starts 38 mya)]>Miocene(starts 24 mya)>Pliocene (starts 5.3 mya to 1.6 or 2 mya)

            Diversification of mammals, birds, pollinating insects & angiosperms

            NOTE: Oligocene skipped and Miocene runs from 36 to 5.3 mya

Quarterany Period: 2 mya

Epochs: Pleistocene (glacial), mankind: starts 2 (or, 1.6) mya

                 Holocene (recent) 12,000 or 10,000 to present


Appendix III: Taxonony - naming and classifying plants and animals


The beginning of wisdom, as the Chinese say, is calling things by their right names.

(Edward O. Wilson. The Diversity of Life. Norton NY 1992.)


There are anywhere from three to twenty million different kinds of living organisms on earth. (Many more lived in the past but are now extinct.) Based on similarities, scientists have classified this huge number. The most basic division is called a kingdom, followed by phylum, class, order, family, genus and species in order of increasing similarities. The most fundamental division, that of species, is based on the fact that only members of the same species can reproduce to create viable, fertile offspring. (The horse and the donkey, different species, can breed, but the resulting mule is sterile, unable to reproduce itself.) The science of classification is called taxonomy and each division is called a taxa.


This branch of science, taxonomy should not to be confused with the similar sounding taxidermy, dealing with stuffed animals. Taxonomy divides life, arranging animals and plants into natural, related groups or categories based on similar common features such as embryology, biochemistry and organs serving for digestion, reproduction, locomotion, excretion, circulation, nerves or senses responding to external stimuli.  Types of body symmetry - bilateral (two-sided), radial (star shaped) also weigh in.  By the way, the root word of taxonomy, taxis, comes from the ancient Greek and means arrangement or division.  It was then applied to units of troops of varying sizes.


The ancient Greeks were the first to attempt systematic, scientific classification of organisms. The philosopher Aristotle was at the forefront of this effort. His classification was based mainly on outward appearances, which are sometimes valid but not always. The Chinese, the Islamic scholars and scientists from other cultures developed various systems of classification but the one which the world  today follows came out of the scientific ‘revolution’ of Europe, starting in the 18th century. It took a psychological revolution to leave the Aristotelean system, which had the approving imprimatur of the Catholic Church and to question it was at times considered close to heresy. Neither the civil nor the religious authorities of the time were amused or intrigued by Keppler and Galileo. God had put the earth at the center of the universe, and that was that. No doubts allowed. Working in the far northern country of Sweeden, the scientist Carolus Linnaeus had an easier time in a more liberal intellectual climate. He devised a method of naming and classifying animals called the binomial system. Each organism was to have two identifying names: genus and species.


The English language (which has not always been the international one) muscles in or insidiously rides on popular entertainment, as well as for its qualities.  But, due to convention and its former importance, Latin (and to a lesser extent, Greek) is still paramount in some sciences, especially biology (botany and zoology).  When the Swedish scientist Linnaeus in his Sistema Naturae (1751) first divided life forms in the mid-18th century, Latin was still the language of choice for scientists wishing to reach an international audience. The precedent set by Linnaeus is still followed today by taxonomists: latinize all names, with a bit of classical Greek occasionally thrown in.


The scientist who first describes an organism names it as well.  From the phylum down to the genus level, these names usually describe some physical characteristic: Echinodermata means ‘spiny-skinned’.  The species name can also be descriptive (conspicillum - conspicuous) as well as geographic (amboinensis - from Ambon) or a person.  This personal name can be the scientist’s, the name of the person who first brought the species to scientific attention or a chap’s girl friend.  The species name choice is up to the scientist who first publishes its description.  But this also has to be ratified by the International Committee on Scientific Nomenclature. 


Living organisms have been divided many times, but it is now generally accepted that they all fall into five kingdoms. These are as follows:

1. Bacteria (also called prokaryotoic, meaning cells without a nucleus; the rest of         the kingdoms’ organisms have eukaryotic cells, meaning with nuclei.)

2. Protocista: this includes algae, protozoans, slime molds among others.

3. Fungi: mushrooms, molds and lichen.

4. Plants: mosses, ferns, cone-bearing plants and flowering plants

5. Amimals, invertebrates without backbones, and chordates or vertebrates with backbones.


Aside from the presence or absence of the cell nucleus, the main difference between the first kingdom and the others lies in reproduction: asexual in the bacteria, sexual in the others. The last three kindgdoms show the three great ecological strategies for larger organisms: absorption (fungi), production (plants) and consumuption (animals). Plants photosynthesize their food while animals ingest it.


Viruses are not included in the five kingdoms because they are not made up of cells. Composed of DNA (or the related RNA) enclosed in a coat of protein, viruses are much smaller than cells.  Although they can reproduce, they can do so only by entering a host cell and using its living machinery.  Outside the host cell, they neither reproduce, feed, nor grow.  Some of them can even be crystallized, like minerals. Viruses are probably more closely related to their hosts than to each other. 


Plant taxonomy.

The vast majority of today’s living plants are angiosperms or flowering plants. In geological terms, they are quite young, having appeared but some 150 million years ago. Most botanists believe that these plants evolved from seed ferns. The gymnosperms are the other of the two main plant phyla or divisions. These are older than the angiosperms, dating back some 300 million years. Before the splitting of Pangea into today’s various continents, continuous forests of gymnosperms covered the earth from pole to pole. Various types of plants had undergone what is called ‘convergent evolution’, whereby different parent stocks come up with a common and better solution to survival. In this case, the solution was seed production. 


Gymnosperms have left us an excellent record of their early forms, fossils which show rapid evolution along many lines resulting in great diversity. Today’s gymnosperms include most of the common evergreen, cone-bearing trees in the northern hemisphere, such as the pines, junipers, cedars and spruces. South of the equator, we have two main gymonsperm families: the Araucariaceae with two genera and the Podocarpacea with seven genera. Australian forests are mostly evergreen hardwoods, with the dry-adapted genus Eucalyptus making up the bulk of the timber. Two species stand out in the more temperate areas: the myrtle beech (Nothofagus cuninghamii) and the kauri pine (Agathis australis). While the eucalypts are restricted to the dry southern areas of New Guinea, the myrtle beech and the kauri pine have successfully crossed over and spead into the montane areas.


Angiosperms, the flowering plants, stated evolving 150 million years ago but are now the dominant vegetation on earth, having replaced most of the gymnoperms and ferns. What is remarkable was the speed of this phase of plant evolution: once the new mode of reproduction established itself, some 100 million years ago, it took but some 10 million years to achieve dominance, in all climates, from the equator to the poles. The spread was unstoppable: neither ocean barriers nor the existing vegetation could prevent the angiosperms’ rapid rise. Today, the flowering plants can boast of the greatest number of species (over 250,000 in more than 300 families) as well as occupying the most habitats. How and why they evolved so rapidly and took over the earth is still now not well explained, although our understanding is better than in the 19th century when Charles Darwin wrote of the angiosperms’ origins as an ‘abominable mystery’. 


While both are seed plants, the main differerence between the gymnosperms and angiosperms lies in the production of these seeds, the extent to which the ovules are exposed at the time of pollination. The more primitive (less evolved) gymnosperms bear bare seeds with no fruit for nourishment and protection. These seeds are exposed to the environment, either on the surface of cone scales or on stalks among leaves.


The angiosperms produce fruits which can be seen as closed ‘seed vessels’. The word gymnosperm literally means ‘naked seed’ while angiosperm means ‘encased seed’. The gymnosperms’ seeds are naked ovules exposed to the pollen pior to germination while the angiosperms’ ovules are enclosed within the ovary of a pistil called gynoecium. This more complicated but also more efficient means of reproduction requires the pollen tube to grow through considerable tissue material before reaching the ovules. The ovary, the tissue surrounding the ovules, becomes the plant’s fruit which may contain a single or many seeds. Thus the seeds are borne inside the fruit tissue that develops from the ovary or some other floral structure. This seed strategy ranks among the greatest of evolutionary innovatations: protection and nourishement. Thanks to this, from the early Cretaceous period flowering plants took over most of the earth. Concurrently, an evolution of insects occurred, some required for pollination, other just feeding on the new plants. The terrestrial vertebrates, placentals mammals, also began during this period.


At an early stage of evolution, the angiosperms split into monocotyledons (monocots) and dicotyledons (dicots), based on the number of leaves which appear when the seeds first sprout. The monocots’ leaves show mostly paralell veins and flower parts in three’s or multiples thereof. This group includes sea grasses, palms, lilies, grasses, sedges and orchids. The dicots’ leaves have net veination and floral parts come in fives. The dicots include most trees and other plants such a shrubs and vines, with over 200,000 species in 300 families and over 10,000 genera.


While all gymnosperms are woody, many angiosperms are herbacious as well. While woody means with trunks of hardened cellulose, trees have a more precise definition. Trees are perennial, seed-bearing plants, seven meters tall, or more, at maturity. The main stem or trunk dominates the lateral branches. Tropical ferns attain the status of trees (tree-ferns), along with the banana plant which is but a huge herb which dies after fruiting. Some tropical plants, such as stangler figs, are start life as vine-like lianas and depend on other trees for support until maturity when they take over and smother their host. The tallest trees in the world, the California redwoods, reach over 120 meters, while cypress in Mexico has attained the record girth with a diamter of over 12 meters. This single tree provides 800 square meters of shade at noon. The oldest tree is a bristlecone pine whose life started close to 3000 years before Christ.


Appendix IV: Evolution

Not long ago, evolution was summarized by the ignorant as mankind descending from the apes. No scientist ever said that. But of all scientific theories, evolution suffered the most in the minds and mouths of idiots. Some of these, especially during the 19th century, were not all idiots, just narrow-minded. They tried to discredit this theory through Christianity, by interpreting the Old Testament far too literally: the earth and all its living forms were created by God in seven days. And that was 4004 years before Christ, calculated through biblical genealogies.


Today, from a scientific point of view, evolution is no longer a theory but fact. It is accepted by Christian scientists, with minuscule exceptions. But some fundamentalist Christian sects still reject the idea, along with the round shape of the earth. They fought, and lost, a legal battle in the United States in the 1920s (called the Skopes ‘monkey trial) concerning the teaching of evolution in public schools. But due to their influence in the US, some biology textbooks still proffer the biblical alternative of creationism along with the science of evolution by natural selection. 


Many excellent books have been written about evolution, and here we will only give a brief summary, especially as it applies to New Guinea. While the idea of evolution had been around for a long time, no one had figured out the mechanisms by which slightly different animals passed on their genes to the next generation. Two men came up with this key concept at the same time: Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin. Wallace had been traveling around the Indonesian archipelago studying what to Europeans was strange and unusual animal life. Sick with malaria in Ternate, a flash of inspiration led him to natural selection as the long-sought mechanism which drove evolution. Very simply put, those organisms which have some heritable advantage over others transmit more of their genes into the next generation. This does not apply to acquired characteristics, such as skill in throwing a spear, unless that trait is based on a heritable longer or better jointed arm. Wallace outlined his stupendous idea in a letter to the much older and better known Darwin, a leading scientist of Victorian Great Britain. How far Darwin had gotten on his own about natural selection on his own remains an open question. But Wallace’s letter is now a footnote in history while everyone remembers Darwin as the father of the (then) theory of evolution. Thus the idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’ was expanded into ‘more sex by the fittest’, thus more offspring for the fittest, thus more of his genes into the next generation.


Chemistry and chance control evolution

It took a while to line up solid scientific facts controlling the mechanism behind the theory. An Austrian monk named Mendel, growing peas, worked out the basic laws of traits transmission. But he remained ignorant of the physical and chemical factors controlling the sexual transmission of traits. Later, other smart scientists and a string of Nobel prizes told the world that heredity is controlled by chromosomes in the sex cells which unite at the moment of conception. Sex cells are unique in that they contain only half of the usual number of chromosomes found any particular species’ cells. Thus a sex cell from the male and female must combine in forming an embryo which receives its full complement of chromosomes from its parents.


Another huge step for mankind came with the knowledge that chromosomes carry hold units called genes, the ultimate carriers of heredity. These genes are strung along the chromosomes which are made up of DNA, an abbreviation for desorybo-nucleic-acid. The DNA is made up of two entwined strands forming a double helix. There are four chemicals, called base pairs, which must assemble precisely to form the DNA. The two base pairs are adenine-thymine and cystosine-guanine. This is usually abbreviated as the AT/GC code. It is in the sections or sequences of base pairs that form genes, and their language  is made of four characters with only two rigid possibilities of assembly.


What is important for evolution is that when life reproduces itself things can go wrong. Base pairs still have to line up with their partners, but the sequences can be thrown out of order. The resulting offspring can be what is called a mutation, and this can happen two ways, both at random. Molecules can get knocked about in the DNA by cosmic radiation, altering the genes. Or, the splitting and re-combination of the DNA during reproduction can deviate from the normal.


Thus the AT/GC code in the DNA, together with its continual mutation, permits a near-infinity of possibilities all depending on the ever-present element of change. Strand of our own DNA from a single chromosome are 4 cm. long, along which are hundreds of millions of A-T, G-C pairs. (Drury, 1999) Any change in these pair-sequences can produce mutation. In most mutations, the effects lead to death of the organism. But occasionally an advantageous new trait emerges, leading to a fitter organism, better able to survive and thus transmit its particular new genetic make-up to the next generation.


In the human population 99.9% of the genes that have a tangible function are identical. Chimpanzees and humans differ in DNA sequences by only about 1.5%. Surprisingly, the difference is less than between members of the warbler family of birds, often separated only by their songs. Were it not for our profound differences in behavior, we could be regarded as the third species of chimps. For chimps and humans, the split occurred five to seven million years ago. This leaves a three to five million year period before the appearance of the first tools in which we seek evidence for the appearance of bipedal apes and other branchings. (Drury, 1999)


Earliest life and isolated populations

Life is usually defined as the ability to self-replicate. Some scientists have pushed back the earliest forms of life to at least 3.85 billion years ago, which marks the beginning of the geology of our planet. This is how the reasoning goes: the universe was formed though a ‘Big Bang’ some 10 to 15 billion years ago, almost twice the lifetime of a body the size of our sun. The solar system, including our earth, formed some 4.6 billion years ago. But ‘shortly’ thereafter a planted the size of Mars stuck the earth a glancing blow, tearing out our moon. This impact vaporized much of the mantle of the earth, obliterating everything except the most basic elements. Thus the first 600 million years of the history of the earth left no traces in the form of solid rocks. Of the oldest stone-bound chemical signs of life, Greenland holds the record at 3.87 billion years ago. (Drury, 1999).


From there we have to take a giant leap, with tangible fossils appearing around 560 million years ago. This was the Cambrian Period, with evidence for all major phyla along with many that vanished. Since then, life on earth has undergone periods of proliferation of organisms as well as spectacular extinction, of which the demise of the dinosaurs is best known. But prior to that, life experienced far more devastating extinctions.


Early life evolved in warm, shallow seas which covered much of the earth. Plant and animal life started taking over land masses some 400 million years ago, with vascular plants, insects and amphibians the first to exit from the marine environment. From an evolutionary point of view, it is crucially important to know that much of the earth’s land masses unified in a supercontinent called Pangaea, named after the Greek earth goddess. With few obstacles to the spread of plants and similar climate and land forms, diversity was kept to a minimum. This changed drastically when Pangaea began to break up, around 200 million years ago, continuous land forms were broken up, with different life forms evolving in response to different conditions such as climate, the changing availability of food types and the presence of predators. 


We have seen above how mutations can happen. The resulting offspring is different from the parents. If this difference gives it and advantage over similar organisms, it will not only survive, but leave more of its genes in the next generation. An example of this would be the ability of mammals to grow thicker hair in cold weather.


However, in large, inter-breeding populations, the advantages of mutations tend to spread out and disappear. Two parts of a population can evolve into

distinct species only if some sort of barrier prevents gene flow between them. (Townsend 2000). This happened when Pangaea broke up into two supercontinents, some 150 million years ago. The northern half is known as Laurasia (made up of what later became North America, Europe and Asia) and a southern portion, called Gondwanaland, named for the warlike gods of India. This huge chunk of land initially combined Africa, Antarctica, Australia, India and South America. As these large bodies of land drifted apart, ever-widening ocean barriers prevented the re-mixing of populations, allowing mutations to establish themselves to fit into the changing environment.


Basics of New Guinea’s divergent and parallel evolution

Much of New Guinea’s evolutionary story is tied with Australia’s, the mother-continent for most of its’ land mass. But it is the size of the land mass, the varied geography and its location which makes our island a very special evolutionary mix. Once New Guinea had drifted far enough to the north, on the leading edge of the Australian continental shelf, plants and animals from the richer south-east Asian area could cross the narrowing water barriers in search of new places to populate. For many kinds of flora and fauna, New Guinea was the end of the line, due to the difficulty of crossing over to Australia over what is now the Arafura Sea and the Torres Strait. The dry, savannah and open forest separated the tropical rain forest in southern New Guinea from a similar eco-system which then held sway in northern Australia, and whose remnants survive in Queensland. This effective barrier to the two-way traffic of plants and animals shaped much of New Guinea’s unique blend of species. We have to remember that the uniqueness is mostly restricted to the species level: there are comparatively few endemics at the next higher taxonomic level, that of genera. This also emphasized the relatively new evolutionary nature of the island’s life forms. The first step in evolution of new animals and plants always begins at the species level, with new genera taking much more time to develop. 


Evidence of the power of ecological forces to shape the direction of evolution comes from parallel evolution in which populations from long isolated common ancestors have followed similar patterns of diversification. Descendants from very different ancestors can evolve to converge on the vary similar form and behavior. Many organisms evolved in isolation from each other and then converged on remarkably similar forms or behavior. Physical structures became analogous (similar in superficial form or function) but not homologous (derived from and equivalent structure in a common ancestry) resulting in convergent evolution. (Drury, 1999)


Placentals and marsupial mammals are the classic example of convergent evolution. The marsupials arrived on what was to become Australia in Cretaceous period, some 90 mya when the only other mammals there were egg-laying monotremes. Marsupials and placentals started to diversify from a common ancestral line and both inherited a common set of potentials and constraints. The evolutionary process works of the genetic variation that is available. It favors only those forms that are the fittest from among the range of variety available and this may be a very restricted choice. The very essence of natural selection is that organisms come to match their environments by being ‘the fittest available’. (Drury, 1999).


Thus we have the more common wolf of the northern hemisphere, along with the marsupial equivalent, the Tasmanian wolf (recently extinct) with remarkably similar bodies and predatory behavior. Another example of convergent evolution is found much in evidence in New Guinea’s mangroves. Here a few species trees from several dozen families developed similar adaptive structures to be able to survive in a highly saline environment. 


Appendix V: Crustacea, amphibians, reptiles


The shrimps and crabs below are divided into two sections. The first one is from Beehler 1993 while the second one was kindly supplied to me by Ibu Dwi Rahayu of the Freeport Environmental lab. In the Beehler list I have left out the few which overlap with the Freeport collection.


Decapoda Natantia (shrimps)

Beehler, 1993:


Natantia (shrimps)

Family Atyidae:

Atyopsis spinipes (Newport, 1847, throughout NG, India/Japan/Polynesia)

Atyoida pilipes (as above, Madagascar to Polynesia)

Caridina genus:

                        C. buhleri (Roux 1934: type locality only, N. Ireland)

                        C. cognata (type locality only, Irian) De Man 1915

                        C. demani (type locality only, Irian) Roux, 1911

                        C. fecunda (type locality only, Irja) Roux, 1911

                        C. opaensis (Sulawesi and Aru, not NG) Roux, 1919

                        C. papuana (type locality, Irja) Nobili, 1905

                        C. rouxi (type locality only, Bougainville) De Man, 1915

            C. serratirostris (widespread, Indo-Pacific) De Man, 1892

            C. troglodytes (type locality only, N. Ireland, subterranean pools) Holthuis, 1978

            C. typus (widespread, Indo-west Pacific) H. Milne Edwards, 1837

Family Palaemonidae (only those not listed below)

            Macrobrachium australe (India to N. Caledonia) Guerin, 1838

            M. bariense (Malaysian to NG) De Man, 1892

            M. gracilirostre (Malyasia to Polynesia) Miers, 1875

            M. microps (endemic, only N. Ireland) Hothuis, 1978

            M. minutum (only Sentani) Roux, 1917

            M. natulorum (Paniai only, undescribed) Holthuis 1982

            M. oeone (Malaysian, to NG) De Man, 1902

            M. placidum (Malyasian to NG) De Man, 1902

            M. sophronicum (eastern Indon. Ryukus, N. Ireland) Holthuis, 1950

            Palaemon debilis (wide: Red Sea to Polynesia) Dana 1852


Reptantia (crayfish)

Family Parastacidae

            (subgenus Astraconephrops: wide ranging)

            Cherax (Astraconephrops) albertsii (south NG Fly west to Digul)

            C. (A.) misolicus (Misool only)

            C. (A.) monticola (upper Baliem only)

            C. (A.) papuanus (Lake Kutubu, PNG)

Parastacidae (subgenus Cherax: Paniai Lakes 1650 to 1750m) - (Holthuis, 1949)

            Cherax (Cherax) boschmai (Lake Paniai only)

            C. (C.) buitendijkae (Paniai only)

            C. (C.) communis (Tigi and Paniai)

            C. (C.) longipes (Tigi only)

            C. (C.) murido (Paniai)

            C. (C.) pallidus (Paniai)

            C.(C.)  paniaicus (Paniai)

            C. (C.) solus (Tigi only)



Freeport list:


Shrimp: 9 families, 20 genera, 58 species, including new and yet unidentified ones; includes 14 species of Macrobranchyum.


Paratacidae (1)

Cherax (Cherax) lorentzi (western NG between Vogelkop and Noord/Lorentz R.; with       subspecies C. lorentzi auranus, Aru only, Roux 1911)


Squillidae (2)

Orastosquillina interrupta

Squillidae ?sp. nov., cf. lenisq


Penaeidae (16)

Metapenaeus demani, M. conjunctus, M. eboracensis, M. papuensis, M. moyebi, M. sp.

Penaeus merguiensis, P. monodon, P. longistylus, P. latisulcatus, P. conjunctus

Parapenaeopsis cornuta, P. sculptilis, P. , hardwickii

Trachypenaeus gonospinifer, T. curvirostris


Palaemonidae (13+2+2 new = 17)

Palaemon concinnus

Nerocila sp. nov.

Leandrites celebensis

Macrobranchyum mammilodactylus, M. rosenbergii, M. idae, M. weberi, M. horstii, M. lar, M. latidactylus, M. handschini, M. equidens, M. lorentzi

            and two probable new species

Note: in this same genus, the 1997 Amdal fish survey found also M. lepidacyloides and M. latimanus.  (14)


Alpheidae (1) (snapping shirmps)

Alpheus sp. (found during the 1997 Amdal fish survey)


Atyidae (7+5) found in lowlands only, running and stagnant water

Caridina gracilirostris, C. brevicarpis, C. longirostris, C. blancoi, cf. longirostris, C. weberi, C. nilotica, N. ?celebensis, and up to five still to be identified species


Sergestidae (1)

Acetes sp.


Hippolytidae (4)

Atyopsis spinipes

Exhippolysmate ensirostris

Latreutes anoplonyx

Lysmata vittata

Cymothoidae (4)

Anilocra leptosoma, A. caudata

Nerocila monodi, N. lomata





Beehler, 1993: 


Family Gecarcinidae

            Cardisoma carnifex (wide distr. in PNG, Admiralty, Bougainville)

            C. hirtipes (as above)

            C. rotondum (as above but no Bougainville)

            Epigrapsus notatus (Nicobar to Bismarck)

            E. politus (Malaysia to NG to Bismarck)

            Gecarcoidea lalandii (Bismarck to N. Caledonia)


Family Grapsidae (Sesarminae) Note that Beelher gives 8 species, none of which have been identified in the Freeport Indonesia area; on the other hand, FI has come up with a list of 19 members of this family, none of which are on the Beehler list.

            Labuanium rotondatum (estuarine, wide distr. also in N. Britain, N. Ireland)

            Metasesarma aubryi (as above)

            Sarmatium integrum (wide distribution)

            Geosesarma gordonae (originally desc. from Fak2)

            G. ianthina (?)

            G. maculatum (reported from N. Britain)

            Sesarmops impressum (wide)

            Sesarmoides novabritannia (unknown habitat, perhaps carvernicole)


Family Varuninae

            Pseudograpsus crassus (freshwater, eastern Indo to Irian)

            Ptychognatus demani (fresh, n. Irja)

            P. riedelii (Andamans to Irja)

            Varuna litterata (fresh, brackish, marine; wide dist. E. Africa to Polynesia)


Family Hymenosomodae

            Amarinus angelicus (freshwater, type only)


Family Goneplacidae/Trogloplacinae

            Trogloplax joliveti (troglobite; continental karst caves N. Britian and mts)


Family Sundathelphusidae

            Geelvinkia ambaiana (north of mts)

            G. calmani (Irian, south)

            G. holthusi (Irian, south)

            Hothusiana alba (first white carvernicolous species; 2nd white&blind)

            H. biroi (north and south)

            H. boesemani (Irja, south)

            H. subconvexa (Irja, south)

            H. wollastoni (Irja, south)

            Rouxana ingrami (north and south)

            R. minima (north Irja, Sepik, maybe)

            R. papuana (north and south)

            R. phreatica (north and south)

            R. plana (Irja, north)

            R. roushdyi (Irja, south)

            Sendleria genuitei (grotto, N. Britain)

            S. gloriosa (two subspecies, N. Britain and Bougainville)

            S. gjellerupi (Sentani, Arso lakes; Holthuis: dubious)


Freeport list:


Crabs: 16 families, 48 genera, 80 species (inc. new ones and 9 Charybdis)


Xanthidae (1)

Atergatopsis amoyensis


Dorippidae (1)

Neodorippe sp. nov.


Pilumnidae (2)

Pilumnus longicornis

Scalopia spinosipes


Goneplacidae (3)

Eucrate alcocki, E. sexdentata

Carcinoplax sinica


Portunidae (17)
Portunus pelagicus, P. sanguinolentus, P. trilobatus,

Scylla olivacea

Charybdis callianasa, C. feriatus, C. vadorum, C. anisodon, C. hellerii, C. natator, C. annulata, C. riverandersoni, C. truncata (9)

Portunus gracilimanus, P. hastatoides

Thalamita crenata

Podophathalmus vigil


Graspidae (19)

Clistocoelma amamaparense

Episesarma lafondi,

Ilyograpsus paludicola

Labuanium politum

Metopograpsus latifrons, M. frontalis,

Nannoseserma edamensis

Neosarmatium trispinosum

Neosesarma rectipectinatum

Paraixydognathus deianira

Perisesarma semperi, P. sp. 2, P. sp. 1, P. messa

Ptychognatus dentatus

Sarmatium germaini

Sesarmoides borneensis

Selatium brocki

Utica borneensis

Varuna yui


Ocypodidae (11)

Macrophthalmus latreillei, M. parvimanus, M. definitus, M. erato, M. pacificus,

Oca seismela, O. coarctata, O. triangularis, O. annulipes, O. vomeris

Paracleistostoma cf. depressum


Diogenidae (10)

Dardanus hessii

Clibanarius amonensis, C. antennatus , C. sp. nov.,

Diogenes custos, D. avarus, D. stenops, D. leptocerus, D. tumidus, D. dorthae


Calappidae (1)

Matuta planipes


Porcellanidae (1)

Petrolisthes kranjiensis


Pilumnidae (4)

Typlocarcinops canaliculatus

Heteropanope glabra, H. longipedes

Benthopanope estuarius


Thalassinidae (1)

Thalassina anomala


Leucociidae (5)

Iphiculus spongiosus

Ixa edwardsi

Leucosia alcocki, L. pubescens

Philyra heterograna


Ephiriidae (2)

Epixanthus dentatus

Myomonippe fornasinii


Pinnotheridae (1)

Pinnotheres sp.


Sundathelpusidae (1)

Hothuisana sp.




Amphitians and reptiles from Beehler, 1993, with species found only in Irian Jaya/West Papua, as additions (+) from Petocz, 1989 and (++) from Iskandar 2000.


Frogs species

Bufonidae                    1

Hylidae            `           62        (+13)

Microhylidae    84        (+13)

Myobatrachidae           6          (+1)

Ranidae                       44        (+3)

Total                            197      (+30) = 227

Note that in 1989, Petocz’s totals were Irian, 91 species, PNG 152 and island-wide, 182


Lizard species

Agamidae                    14

Gekkonidae                 32        (+3)

Pygopodidae    2

Scincidae                     149      (+15)

Varanidae                    8          (+1, although somewhat doubtful)

Total                            195      (+19) = 214


Snake species

Acrochordidae 2

Boidae             2

Colubridae                   32

Elapidae                      23        (+1)

Hydrophiidae   22        (+1)

Pythonidae                   8

Typhlopidae     9

Total                            98        (+2) = 100


Turtle species

Carettochelydae           1

Chelidae                      5          (++2)

Cheloniidae                  5          (++1)

Dermochelyidae           1

Trionychidae    1          (++1)

Total                            13


Crocodiles species

Crocodylidae   2 (with a very probable third species, but not yet named)


Grand total                  505 (+51) (++4) = 560




Bufo marinus



Litoria albolabris, amoinensis, angiana, arfakiana, aruensis, becki, bicolor, blumeri, caerulea, congenita, contrastens, darlingtoni, dorsalis, dorsivena, eucnemis, exophthalmia, genimaculata, gracilenta, graminea, impura, infrafrenata, iris, jeudii, leucova, longicrus, lousiadensis, lutea, micromembrana, modica, multiplica, nasuta, nigrofrenata, nigropunctata, oenicolen, prora, pygmaea, rothii, rubella, spinifera, thesaurensis, timida, vocivincens, wollastoni


Nyctimenes avocalis, cheesmanae, daymani, disrupta, foricula, gularis, humeralis, kubori, narinosa, obsoleta, papua, perimetri, persimilis, pulchra, semipalmata, trachydermis, tyleri, zweifeli



Aphantophryne minuta, pansa, sabini

Asterophrys turpicola

Barygenys atra, cheesmanae, exsul, flavigularis, maculata, nana, parvula

Callulops doriae, eurydactylus, humicola, personatus, robustus, slateri, strictogaster, wilhelmanus

Choerophryne rostellifer


Cophixalus ateles, biroi, cheemanae, cryptotympanum, darlingtoni, kaidiensis, nubicola, parkeri, pipilans, riparius, shellyi, sphagnicola, tagulensis, vercundus, verrocusus

Copiula fistulans, minor, oxyrhina, pipiens, tyleri

Genyophryne thomsoni

Hylophorbus rufescens

Mantophryne infulata, lateralis, lousiadensis

Oreophryne anthonyi, biroi, brachypus, brevicrus, geislerorum, inornata, insulana, kampeni, perkeri, wolterstorfii

Pherohapsis menziesi


Sphenophryne brevicrus, brevipes, cornuta, crassa, dentata, gracilipes, hooglandi, macrorhyncha, mehelyi, palmipes, polysticta, rhododactyla, schlaginhaufeni

Xenobatrachus anorbis, bidens, fuscigula, huon, mehelyi, obesus, rostratus, subcroceus, tumulus

Xenorhina oxycephala, perkerorum, similis



Lechriodus aganoposis, melanopyga

Limnodynastes convexiusculus

Mixophyes hihihorlo

Ranidella remota

Uperoleia mimula



Batrachylodes elegans, gigas, mediodiscus, minutus, montanus, trossulus, vertebralis, wolfi

Ceratobatrachus guentheri

Discodeles bufoniformis, guppyi, ophistodon, ventricosus

Palmatorappia solomonis

Platymantis acrochordus, aculeadactylus, akaritthymus, boulengeri, gilliardi, guppyi, macrops, macrosceles, magnus, mimicus, myersi, neckeri, nexipus, papuensis, parkeri, rhipiphalcus, schmidti, solomonis, weberi

Rana arfaki, daemeli, garritor, grisea, grunniens, jimiensis, kreffti, novaeguineae, papua (papuana?), semelvella, supragrisea




Chlamydosaurus kingii

Diporiphora australis, bilineata

Hypsilurus auritus, binotatus, bruijnii, dilophus, geelvinkianus, godeffroyi, modestus, nigrigularis, papuensis

Lophognathus temporalis

Physignathus leseurii



Crytodactylus derongo, loriae, louisiadensis, marmoratus, mimikanus, novaeguinea, papuensis, sermowaiensis

Gehyra baliola, dubia, interstitialis, lampei, membranacruralis, mutilata, oceanica, papuana, vorax

Gekko vittatus

Hemidactylus frenatus

Hemiphyllodactylus typus typus

Lepidodactylus browni, guppyi, lugubris, magnus, mutahi, novaeguineae, orientalis, pulcher, pumilus (pumilis?), woodfordi

Nactus pelagicus, vankampeni



Lialis burtonis, jicari



Carlia bicarinata, fusca, fusca2, longipedes, luctuosa, pulla, storri

Corucia zebrata

Cryptoblepharus novaeguineae, pallidus, poeciloplerus, virgatus

Ctenotus robustus, spaldingi

Egernia frerei


Emoia aenae, ahli, acrostostata2, aurulenta, battersbyi, bismarckensis, brongersmai, caeruleocuada, coggeri, cyanogaster, cyanura, flavigularis, guttata, jakati, klossi, korodana, longicauda, loveridgei, maxima, mivarti, montana, nigra, obscura, oribata, pallidiceps mehelyi, pallidiceps pallidiceps, physicae2, physicae purari, physicana, popei, pseudocyanura, pseudopallidiceps, submetallica, tetrataenia, tropidolepis, veracunda


Eugongylus albofasciolatus, rufescens

Foijia bumui

Geomyersia coggeri, glabra

Lamprolepis smaragdina

Lipinia cheesmanae, longiceps, noctua, pulchra, rouxi

Lobulia brongersmai, elegans

Lygissuarus macfarlani, novaeguineae

Papuascincus morokanus, phaeodes, stanleyanus

Prasinophaema flavipes2, parkeri, prehensicauda, semoni, virens2


Sphenomorphus aignanus, albodorsalis, annectens, anotus, aruensis, brunneus, cinereus, concinnatus, cranei, crassicaudus, darlingtoni, derooyae, forbesii, fragilis, fragosus, granulatus, jeudii, jobiensis, leptofasciatus, longicaudatus, loriae, lousiadensis, maindroni, megaspilus, melanochlorus, melanopleurus, meyeri, microtympanus, milnensis, mimikanus, minutus, mulleri latifasciatus, muelleri2, neuhaussi, nigricaudis, nigriventris, nigrolineatus, nototaenius, oligolepsis, papuae, pratti, rufus, schultzei, simus, solomonis, stickeli, striolatius, tanneri, taylori, torneri, totocarinatus, transversus, undulatus, unilineatus, wolfi, wollastoni, woodfordi


Tiliqua scincoides gigas (Schneider, 1801)

Tribolonotus annectens, blanchardii, brongersmai, gracilis, novaeguineae, ponceleti, pseudoponseleti



Varanus bogerti, panoptes horni, indicus2, karlschmidti, prasinus, salvadorii, telenesetes, timorensis similis



Acrochorus arafurae

Chersydrus granulatus



Candoia aspera, carinata



Boiga irregularis

Cantoria annulata

Cerberus rhynchops

Dendrelaphis calligastra, gastrostricus, lorentzi, papuensis, punctulatus, solomonis

Enhydris enhydris, polylepis

Fordonia leucobalia

Myron richardsoni

Stegonotus cucullatus, diehli, guentheri, heterurus, modestus, parvus

Tropidonophis aenigmaticus, dahlii, doriae, elongatus, hypomelas, mairii, mcdowelli, montatus, multiscutellatus, novaeguineae, parkeri, picturatus, statisticus



Acanthophis antarcticus

Aspidomorphus lineaticollis, muelleri, schlegeli

Demansia papuensis

Glyphodon tristis

Micropechis ikeheka

Oxyuranus scutellatus

Parapistocalamus hedigeri

Pseudechis australis, papuanus

Pseudonaja textilis

Salomonelaps par

Toxicocalamus bruergersi, holopelturus, longissimus, loriae, misimae, preussi, spilolepidotus, stanleyanus

Unechis carpentariaae, nigrostriatra



Acalyptophis peronii

Aipysurus duboisii, eydouxii, laevis

Disteira kingii, major, stokesii

Enhydrina schistosa

Hydrelaps darwiniensis

Hydrophis belcheri, elegans, fasciatus, gracilis, melanosoma, obscurus, ornatus, pacificus

Lapemis curtus, hardwickii

Laticauda colubrina, laticaudata

Pelamis platurus



Morelia albertisii, amethistina, boa, boeleni, mackloti, papuana, spilota, viridis



Rhamphotyphlops affinis, braminus, erycinus, flaviventer, leucoproctus, polygrammica, subocularis

Typhlops depressiceps, inornatus




Crocodylus porosus, novaeguinea (plus probable south coast species)



Chelonia mydas (Green Turtle)

Eretmochelys imbricata (Hawksbill Turtle)

Lepidochelys olivacea (Pacific Ridley)

Caretta caretta (Loggerhead)

Natator Depressus (Flatback)



Dermochelys coriacea (Leatherback Turtle)



Carettochelys insculpta (Fly River Turtle)


TESTUDINES: TRIONYCHIDAE (soft-shelled turtles)

Pelochelys bibroni (Bibron’s Soft-shell Turtel)


TESTUDINES: CHELIDAE (hard-shelled turtles)

Chelodina novaeguinea (New Guinea Snake-necked Terrapin)

C. siebenrocki (Torres Strait Snake-necked Terrapin)

C. parkeri (Parker’s Snake-necked Terrapin)

Elseya novaeguinea (Yellow-stripe Turtle),

Emydura subglobosa (Red-bellied Turtle)


Note: Petocz does not list Caretta caretta, Natator depressus or Chelodina parkeri for Irian.


The most recent list for Irian Jaya is as follows (Iskandar 2000)

Note that this list contains four species not listed by Beehler: Chelonia agassizi, Elseya branderhosti, Chelodina reinmanni and Pelochelys cantorii.


Cheloniidae (sea turtles): Chelonia mydas (Green), Eretmochelys imbricata (Hawksbill),

            Lepidochelys olivacea (Pacific Ridley), Caretta caretta (Loggerhead), Chelonia     agassizi, (Pacific Green) and Natator depressus (Flatback)

Dermochelydae: Dermochelys coriacea (Leatherback)

Carettochelydae: *Carettochelys insculpta (Fly River/Pig-nose)

Trionychidae (soft shelled turtles): *Pelochelys bibroni (Bibron’s soft shell) and         Pelochelys cantorii (Giant soft shell)

Chelidae: Chelodina novaeguinea (New Guinea Snake-necked Terrapin)

            ‘C.’ parkeri (Parker’s snake-necked Terrapin; first described, 1994)

            ‘C.’ siebenrocki (Torres Strait or Coastal Snake-necked Terrapin)

            *C. reimanni (Digul Snake-headed Terrapin, first described, 1990)

            C. prichardi (first described, 1994)    

            Elseya novaeguinea (Yellow-striped)

            Elseya branderhosti

            *Emydura subglobosa (Red-bellied)

* = in Lorentz Park, so to be assumed also in the Timika area.  The Lorentz material adds an endemic species, Chelodina reimanni, as an expected species this beast’s range is supposedly restricted to the Digul area and Kimaam (also called Dolak) Island. 

The Hatfindo biodiversity volume has the same four starred species as indicated above (but not the C. reimanni). There could also be two new species of Elseya, as yet undescribed, one from the Paniai Lakes and Lake Habbema, the other from Bintuni Bay. (Iskandar, 2000)



Amphibians and reptiles of Irian Jaya, not found in PNG (Petocz, 1989):



Litoria brongersmai, chloronata, mystax, napaea, obtusirostris, pratti, quadrilineata, sanguinolenta, umbonata, vagabunda, wisselensis

Nyctimenes (Nyctimystes in the Beehler list) fluviatilis, montana


Oreophryne albopunctata, crucifera, flava, idenburgensis

Phrynomantis (Callulops in the Beehler list) fusca

Sphenophryne pusilla

Xenobatrachus giganteus, macrops, ocellatus, ophidion, rostratus

Xenorhina bouwensis, minima


Lechriodus platyceps


Platymantis batantae, cheesmanae, punctata

amphibians, total species: 30



Gehyra leopoldi, variegata

Hemidactylus garnotti



Varanus gouldii



Carlia nigrigulare, novaeguinea (Beehler has this species under the genus Cryptoblepharus

Emoia acrocarinata, baudini, beccari, buergersi, callisticta, cuneiceps, simillimus

Lapinina miotis

Lobulia phaeodes

Mabuya multifasciata

Sphenomorphus comtus, keiense, melanopogon, melanopleurus


total for lizards: 19




Demansia atra



Disteira schistosa


Total for snakes: 2



1. Beehler usually ends his species names with --us while in Petocz it’s --a

2. Beehler’s genus Tropidonophis is given by Petocz as Amphiesma; thus Petocz’s Amphiesma montana is very likely Beehler’s Tropidonophis montatus.

3. Petocz’s genus Crytodactylus is given in Beehler as Nactus





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Drury, Stephen. 1999. Stepping Stones. Oxford University Press, New York.


Jones, Diana and G. Morgan. 1994. A Field Guide to Crustaceans of Australian Waters. Reed     Books, Australia.


Johns, Robert, 1997. Common Forest Trees of Irian Jaya - Indonesia

            Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.


Ernst, Carl H. and Roger W. Barbour. 1989. Turtles of the World. Smithsonian

            Institution, Washington D.C.


Erftemeijet, Paul, Gerald Allen and Zuwendara of PHPA. 1989.

            Preliminary Resource Inventory of Bintuni Bay and Recommendations for            Conservation and Management.  PHPA/AWB, Bogor.


Flach, M. and F. Rumawas. 1996. No. 9. Plants Yielding Non-Seed Carbodydrates. Prosea           Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


Farber, P. L. 2000. Finding Order in Nature. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.


Flannery, Timothy et al. 1996. Tree Kangaroos. Reed Books, Australia.


Flannery, Tim. 1995. Mammals of New Guinea. Reed Books, Australia.


Frith, Clifford and Bruce Beehler. 1998. The Birds of Paradise. Oxford University Press,      New York.


Gaston, Kevin J. and John I. Spicer. 1998. Biodiversity. An Introduction. Blackwell            Science, Oxford.


Gee, Henry. 2000. Deep Time. Harper Collins, London.


Gressitt, J. L. and R. W. Hornabrook. 1985. Handbook of Common New Guinea Beetles. Wau     Ecology Institute, New Guinea.


Grubben, G. J. H. and Soetjiptopartohardjono. 1996. No. 10. Cereals. Prosea Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


Kitchner, Ian J. et al. 1998. Cladistics. The Theory and Practice of Parsimony Analysis.   Oxford University Press.


Hall, Philip. 1989. Variations in Geographic Isolates of the New Guinea crocodile       (Crocodylus novaeguineae, Schmidt) Compared with the Similar, Allopatric,             Philippine Crocodile (C. mindorensis Schmidt), Copeia


Hanum, I. F. and L. G. J. van der Maesen. 1997. No. 11. Auxilliary Plants. Prosea             Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


Hinton, A. G. 1977. Guide to shells of PNG. Port Moresby: Robert Brown&Associates,


Hope, Geoffrey, James Patterson, Use Radok, Ian Allison (eds.) 1976. The Equatorial         Glaciers of New Guinea. Balekma, Rotterdam.


Henty, E. E. 1981. Handbooks of the Flora of Papua New Guinea. Vol. II. Melbourne      University Press.


Holttum, R. E. 1967. The Bamboos of New Guinea. Kew Bulletin, Vol. 21, No 2.


Hutchins, Patricia and Peter Sanger. 1987. Ecology of Mangroves. University of Queensland            Press.


Isaacs, Jennifer. 1999. Bush Food. Aboriginal Food and Herbal Medicine. Landsdown,                                 Ausralia


Iskandar, Djoko T. 2000. Kura-kura&Buaya. Indonesian&Papua Nugini. Bandung Institut            Teknonlogi, Banding (Indonesia).

Iskandar, Djoko T.  2000 b. Checklist of New Guinea and its Satellite Islands Herpetofauna.      Handout at the Rapid Biodiversity Planning Workshop for Papua Province within      the Context of Ecoregions-based Consertation of [the] Papuan Region. WWF.,           Jayapura 28-30 August 2000.


Jones, David L. 1995. Palms Throughout the World. Smithsonian Institution Press   Washington DC.


Kalshoven, L. G. E. 1981. Pests of Crops in Indonesia. Translated and revised by P. A. van der Laan. Ichtar Baru - Van Hoeve, Jakarta.


Kitchener, Darrell, J., Boeadi, Martua Sinaga. n.d. The Mammals of the PT Freeport          Contract of Work Mining and Project Area, Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Biodiversity Study        Series, Vol. 6. P.T. Freeport Indonesia, Environmental Department.


Kitamura, Shozo et. al. 1997. Handbook of Mangroves in Indonesia. Bali and Lombok.    International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems. The Development of Sustainable         Mangrove Project, Denpasar, Bali.


Knowles, L. J. and J. Nitchen. 1995. Kingfishers of the World. Times Editions,        Singapore.


Lamprell, Kevin and John Healy. 1992 and 1998. Bivalves of Australia. 2 Vols. Volume 1, Crawford, Bathurst, Australia, 1992. Vol. 2, Backhuys, Leiden, 1998.


Lavarack, B., Wayne Harris and Geoff Stocker. 2000. Dendrobium Orchids. Periplus,         Singapore.


Lemmens, R. H. M. J. and N. Wulijarni-Soetjipto (eds.) 1992. No. 3. Dye and Tannin-        producing Plants. Prosea Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


Lemmens, R. H. M. J. and Soerianegara I. 1994. No. 5 (1) Timber Trees: Major     Commercial Timbers. Prosea Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


Lemmens, R. H. M. J. and Soerianegara I. and Wong, W. C. 1995. No. 5 (2) Timber Trees:           Minor Commercial Timbers. Prosea Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


Liem, D. and A. K. Haines. 1977. ‘The Ecological Significance and Importance of the            Mangrove and Estuarine Communities of the Gulf Province, PNG.’  (in) T. Petr (ed.)     Purari River (Wabo) Hydroelectic Scheme Environmental Studies. Vol. 3: Ecology of      the Purari River Catchment. Waingi: Office of Environment and Conservation.


Long, John A. 1996. The Rise of Fishes: 500 million years of Evolution. John Hopkings    University Press.


Lovelock, Catherine. 1993.  Field Guide to the Mangroves of Queensland. Australian Institute       of Marine Science


Mack, Andrew L. and Leeanne E. Alonso (eds.). 2000. A Biological Assessment of the       Wapoga River Area of Northwestern Irian Jaya, Indonesia. RAP Bulletin of Biological        Assessment 14, Conservation International, Washington D. C.


Macnae, W. 1968. A general account of the fauna and flora of mangrove, swamp and            forests in the Indo-West Pacific. Adv. Mar. Biol. 6:73-290.


Mannetje, L. ‘t and R. M. Jones (eds.) 1992. No. 4. Forages. Prosea Foundation, Bogor,    Indonesia.


Manthey, Ulrich and Norbert Schuster. 1996. Agamid Lizards. T.F.H. Publications, New     Jersey, USA.


Margulis, Lynn and Karlene V. Schwartz.  Five Kingdoms. (second edition) 1988: Freeman


Mastaller, Michael. 1997. Mangroves. Tropical Press, Kuala Lumpur.


Menzies, James. 1991. Handbook of Marsupials and Montremes. Kristen Press, Madang, PNG.

Menzies, James. 1976. Handbook of Common New Guinea Frogs. Wau Ecology Institute,             New Guinea.


Millar, Andrée. 1999. Orchids of Papua New Guinea. Crawfold House, Australia.


Miller, Scott E. et al. n.d. (1997) Insects of the PT Freeport Indonesia Contract of Work Mining and Project Area, Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Biodiversity Study Series, Vol. 11.   P.T. Freeport Indonesia Environmental Department.


Momberg, Frank and Benja Mambai and Hans van Noord. 1998. Nomination of Lorentz    National Park as World Heritage Site. WWF.


Nair, N. B. and M. Saraswathy, 1971. The biology of wood-boring terenid mollusks.             Advanced Marine Biology, 9:335-509.


Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. John Hopkins Unviversity        Press, Baltimore.


O’Bryne, Peter. 1994. Lowland Orchids of PNG. National Parks Board, Singapore             Botanical Gardens.


O’Shea, Mark. 1996. A Guide to the Snakes of Paupua New Guinea. Christensen Research          Institute, Madang, PNG.


Oyen, L. P. A. and X. D. Nguyen (eds.) 1999. No. 19. Essential Oil Plants. Prosea            Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. 


Paijmans, K. (ed.) New Guinea Vegetation. 1976. Australian National University Press.


Parsons, Michael. 1999. Butterflies of PNG. Academic Press (Hartcourt Brace), San Diego.


Petocz, Ronald G. 1989. Conservation and Development in Irian Jaya. E.J. Brill, Leiden.


Polhemus, Dan and John T. Polhemus. n.d. A Biodiversity Survey of Aquatic Insects in the             Ajkwa River Basin, PT Freeport Indonesia Contract of Work Mining and Project Area,    Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Biodiversity Series, Vol. 10. P.T. Freeport Environmental            Department.


Prawiradilaga, Dewi Malia et al. n.d. Proceedings of the Second Inernational Conference on         Eastern Indonesia - Australian Vertebrate Fauna. ISBN 979-579-024-2. (No other      publishing information.)


Rayahu, Dwi Listyo. 2002. Marine and Estuarine Crabs of the Mimika Region.

            Irian Jaya - Indonesia. Manuscript.


Richards, Stephen and Djoko Iskandar. 2001. A new species of tree frog (Anura, Hylidae,    Litoria) from the mountains of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Alytes 2001, 18(3-4): 141-152.

Richards, Stephen and Djoko Iskandar. 2000. A New Minute Oreophryne (Anura:   Microhylidae) from the mountains of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. The Raffles Bulletin of          Zoology 48(2): 257-262.


Ross, C.A. 1989. Crocodiles and Alligators. Golden Press, Siverville New South Wales.


Ruddle, Kenneth et al. 1978. Palm Sago. A Tropical Starch from Marginal Lands. East-West       Center, Hawaii.


Sekhran, N. and S. Miller (eds.). 1994. Papua New Guinea Country Study on Biological   Diversity: A report to the United Nations Environment Program. Waigani, PNG:            Dept.   of Environment and Conservation, Conservation Resource Centre; and      Nairobi, Kenya: Africa Centre for Resources and Environment (ACRE). Reprinted


Setyadi, Gesang et al. 1999. Jenis-jenis Mollusca Yang Ditemukan di Kawasan Mangrove PT      Freeport Indonesia. Coastal Environmental, PT Freeport Indonesia.


Shea, Gary A. et al. n.d. (1997) Synusiae in the Tropical Rain Forests of the PT Freeport             Indonesia Contract of Work Mining and Project Area, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.        Biodiversity Study Series. Vol. 2. PT Freeport Indonesia Environmental Department.

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Shea, Garry, et. al. n.d. (1997) Vegetation of the Subalpine and Nival Zone in the PT             Freeport Indonesia Contract of Work Mining and Project Area, Irian Jaya,      Indonesia. Biodiversity Study Series Vol. 5. PT Freeport Indonesia, Environmental Department.


Shuiteman, A. and E. F. de Vogel. 2001. Orchids of New Guinea, Vol. 1. (CD-ROM)        Expert Center for Taxonomic Identification, University of Amsterday and      Nationaal Herbarium Nederland/UNESCO Publishing.


Siemonsma, J. S. and Kasim Piluek. 1994. No. 8. Vegetables. Prosea Foundation, Bogor,    Indonesia.


Smith, John Maynard and Eörs Szathmáry. 1999. The Origins of Life. Oxford University        Press, New York.


Sosef, M. S. M. and L. T. Hong, and S. Prawirohatmodjo. 1998. No. 5 (3) Timber Trees:   Lesser Known Timbers. Prosea Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


Spalding, Mark, François Blasco and Colin Field (eds.) 1997. World Mangrove Atlas. The International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (founded in 1990 as an NGO based    in Okinawa, Japan)


Stebbins, Robert C. and Nathan W. Cohen. 1995. A Natural History of Amphibians.          Princeton University Press.


Stewart, Lynette. 1994. A Guide to the Palms&Cycads of the World. Angus&Robertson,   Australia.


Supriatna, Yatna (ed.) 1999. The Irian Jaya Biodiversity Conservation Priority-Setting     Workshop Bian, 7 - 12 January 1997. Conservation International, Washington D.C.


Tan, H. T. W. and Hew Choy Sin. 2000. A Guide to the Orchids of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre.


Tomascik, Tomas et al. 1997. The Ecology of the Indonesian Seas. 2 vol.

            Periplus Editions, Singapore.


Townsend, Colin R. et al. 2000. Essentials of Ecology. Blackwell Science, Malden, USA.


Turner, R. D. 1966. A Survey and Illustrated Catalogue of the Terenidae (Mollusca; Bivalva).    Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge.


Tomlinson, P.B. 1986, The Botany of Mangroves. Cambridge Univ. Press


van Balen, Sebastianus and William M. Rombang. n.d. The Birds of the PT Freeport            Indonesia Contract of Work Mining and Project Area, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.      Biodiversity Study Series vol. 7. P. T. Freeport Indonesia, Environmental             Department.


van der Maesen, L. J. G. and Sadikin Sonaatmadja. 1992. Plant Resources of South-East      Asia No. 1. Pulses. Prosea Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia.


van der Vossen, H. A. M. and M. Wessel. 2000. No. 16. Stimulants. Prosea Foundation,    Bogor, Indonesia.


Veevers-Carter, W. 1992. Riches of the Rain Forest. Oxford Universityh Press, Singapore.


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Vincent, Matt and Steve Wilson. 1999. Australian Goannas. New Holland, Australia.


Walker, D. (ed.) 1972. Bridge and Barrier. The natural and cultural history of Torres      Strait. Dept. Biogeograpy and Geomorphology. ANU Press, Canberra.


Webb, R. G. 1995. Redescription and neotype designation of Pelochelys bibroni from          southern New Guinea (Testudines: Trionychidae). Chelonian Conservation and Biology 4(1): 301-310.


Whitmore, T. C. 1984. Tropical Rain Forest of the Far East. Clarendon, England.


Whitmore, T. C. 1998. An Introduction to Tropical Rain Forests. Oxford U. Press.


Whitmore, T. C. 1998. Palms of Malaya. White Lotus, Thailand.


Womersley, John S. 1978. Handbooks of the Flora of PNG. Vol. 1. Melbourne University Press. (reprint 1995)


Winslow, J. H. (ed). 1977.  The Melanesian Environment. ANU Press, Canberra


Zieck, JFU. 1973. Massoy bark in PNG. Forest Products Research Centre, Department of Forests, Technical Paper No. 1, Port Moresby

Zieck, JFU. 1975. The Copal Industry in PNG. Dept of Primary Industry, PNG Office of    Forests, Port Moresby.

Zieck, JFU. 1978. Vatica papuana and its resin. PNG Forest Products Research Centre, Port        Moresby.




Books/articles which I am trying to obtain and which could be very useful to consult before finishing the text:


 Whitaker, R. 1982. Reptiles of PNG. Wildlife PNG 82/2


Science in NG


RePPProt maps 1:250,000


Herbarium Borgoriense.


biodiverity follow-ups PORTsite; Putro, Yoyo and Ibu Woro; Maya 542-5591

            end results of tamelo and Geloina rearing; mollusk list; estuarine fishes

            Gesang: with Putro, biological monitoring; marine biology; booklet on crabs, John PICKERING @ 542-5615; CLO 00004 Placidus Natipia @ KPI

Tito for botany

Dr. Yahya: Ode Kasman for botany samples


CI reports Misool, Mamberamo, Yongsu (before end 2001)

Purari River delta study?

PNG’s first modern novel: Vincent Eri: The Crocodile.


FI: mollusks :

Purari River delta study?


PNG’s first modern novel: Vincent Eri: The Crocodile.


WWF publications: where best?


Soule, M. E. (ed.) 1986. Conservation Biology. Sinaur Associciation Inc. Mass


Millar, A. 1978. Orchids of PNG. ANU Press, Canberra.


 White, R. L. 1983. Freeport Indonesia’s Ertsberg Project sets sights on expanded concentrate production. Engineering and Mining Journal. (Sept. 1983), pp. 46-55.


Audley-Charles, M. G. Tectonic Development in Eastern Indonesia... Nature Physical Science (239): 35-39.


Adams, B. W. 1973. The Ertzberg Project. Min. Mag. 129: 310-323


Aborigian Use of Marine and Coastal Resources of Northern Australia


At end of Colijn Book: van Steenis has a list of plants at the Carstensztop