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The Journey to Paradise Photos of great cultural and natural beauties of Papua New Guinea

 
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Old 23-04-2002, 08:32 PM
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Habitat Briefs

There are close to 9,000 species of plants in Papua New Guinea, around 250 species of mammals including rats, bats, tree kangaroos and echidnas. There are also 700 species of birds including parrot, pigeon and kingfisher species. The world's largest butterfly, the Queen Alexandra Birdwing and scarab beetles make up a few of the spectacular insect species.

The climate is typically monsoonal: hot, humid and wet year round. There are defined wet (December to March) and dry (May to October) seasons but both are subject to regional variation (especially in the islands). Rainfall, for example, varies tremendously:

Port Moresby may experience an annual rainfall of 39 inches while Lae has over 176 inches. In some areas, such as West New Britain, annual rainfall can exceed 20 feet per year.

Temperatures on the coast are reasonably stable all year (between 77 and 86¡F; however. colder temperatures occur in the highlands.

New Guinea is one of the last places on earth where it is possible to save vast tracts of untouched wilderness, especially large areas of rainforest. Rainforests of New Guinea are the largest tracts of undisturbed rainforest in Southeast Asia.

Over 70 percent of the original forest remains untouched. However, the island contains vast resources such as timber, oil, gold and copper making it a prime target for exploitation. Papua New Guinea has only four national parks, including Varirata National Park and McAdam National Park, but more have been proposed.

The major problems facing the environment and its flora and fauna are logging and heavy-metal pollution from copper mines such as Panguna on Bougainville Island (currently closed) and Ok Tedi in the Star Mountains.

Savannah: The southern savannahs were once connected to northern Australia until about 6,000 years ago. Today both areas share similar climates and host the same species of animal such as the wallaby and rusa deer.

These savannahs of grassy plains and open woodland have a dry season when little if any rain falls and a rainy season of considerable rainfall. Much of the land floods during the rainy season.

Many of the animals in the New Guinea and Australia savannahs are the same, such as the agile wallaby and the blue-winged kookaburra. Some, like the Rusa deer are not native mammals to the savannah.

They were introduced to New Guinea from Indonesia by the Dutch. Today they live all over the Trans-Fly (southernmost savannahs) in Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya.

Lowland rainforest: The rainforests of New Guinea are the largest tracts of undisturbed rainforest in Southeast Asia. Over 70 percent of the original forest remains untouched. It is home to the world's largest butterfly; the Queen VictoriaÕs birdwing, and the tallest tropical trees.

These forests are threatened with large scale industrial logging by the same companies that have decimated the forests of the Malaysia and Indonesia.

This is a melaleuca ("paperbark") savannah woodland. These woodlands are often partially flooded during the wet season.
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Old 23-04-2002, 08:33 PM
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Mountain Valleys (manmade grasslands): The mountain ranges above the rainforest give way to periodic highland valleys. Most of these valleys were discovered in the early twentieth century, when prospectors searched for gold. Instead of gold, the explorers found dense agricultural tribes, who had lived in isolation for thousands of years. These tribes are separated by the natural barriers of the terrain and developed separately from one another; consequently developing diverse languages and customs.

Along with tree kangaroos and bowerbirds the mountains have birds of paradise. In some areas you can find more than 10 different species. The plumes of these birds are highly sought after by hunters to make decorations for "singsings" , traditional celebrations. The valleys are manmade grasslands that have been deforested to create gardens and small farms.

Mountain Forest: Above these valleys, the mountain forests are home to animals who essentially live cut off from similar mountain range forests by the adjoining lowlands. These forests are home to many of the tree kangaroo species, bowerbirds, and the BooleanÕs python which is probably the only python to live at such a high altitude.

The lower portions of these forests are called mid-montane. Unlike the warm, bright, lowland rainforests, the mid-montane forests are cooler and usually overcast and misty. These forests are rainforests they're just colder and less diverse. At around 9, 800 feet, mid-montane turns into upper-montane forest, or moss forest. A thick cover of moss seems to encase everything.

Alpine grasslands: As the elevations rise further (11,000-13,000 feet), these dense forests open up into patchy woodland mixed with sub-alpine grasslands. The climate here is cold and very wet. These grasslands are home to many burrowing rodents and the wild dogs that hunt them. Above these mountain grasslands, glaciers are present on some mountain ranges. New Guinea is the only tropical island with an altitude high enough to support glaciers on its peaks.

Mount Jaya reaches 16, 000 feet. Plant life in the high altitudes of a tropical mountain have adapted to constant extremes in temperatures that can range from 68 degrees(20 Celsius) to freezing in the span of a day.
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Old 23-04-2002, 08:34 PM
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Mangrove forest: Dense swamplands cover the lowlands. These were once shallow ocean, but sediment carried from the mountains and deposited has formed a dense network of river tributaries, floodplain, swamp and mangrove forest. These areas are home to salt water crocodiles, flying foxes and a the palm cockatoo. Strangely, fresh water fish are limited in their scope in this environment, because terrain has made it difficult for fresh water species to migrate to these areas.

The people that live in these areas do not make large gardens like the highland people. Instead they depend on the sago palm for their food. When the palm is mature the tree is cut down, and the pith is broken up (by pounding it with mallets),it is then run through a filter to trap the fiber and collect the starch to eat. The people who live in the swamp and mangrove forest areas are the finest woodcarvers on the island, especially those people who live in the Sepik River Basin. There may be uncontacted groups in the most remote swamps and in the "highland fringe" where the mountains meet the lowlands.

This is an example of a permanently wet swamp in the transfly.
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Last edited by Webteam; 23-04-2002 at 08:41 PM.
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Old 23-04-2002, 08:37 PM
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Coral reef: New Guinea reefs are the richest in the world in terms of species along with Indonesia, Eastern Malaysia and the Southern Philippines. Although threats exist, these reefs are much less disturbed/damaged than those of the Southeast Asian countries.

It is one of the last refuges for endangered species such as the dugong. In some areas, such as the Magic Passage off Madang, the reefs are especially abundant in life as water from the vast rainfalls channels out to the reefs and meets with several ocean currents.

In these areas, vast amounts of filter feeding creatures feast on the rich nutrients carried by these waters. The filter feeders, attract a large assortment of fish and sea creatures. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, the reefs most of New Guinea's are close to shore and are easily accessible.
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Old 23-04-2002, 08:39 PM
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Volcanoes: New Guinea is a hotbed of volcanic activity. New Britain Island is on a chain of over twenty volcanoes and new ones form occasionally. Volcanic eruptions in this part of the world are particularly violent because the makeup of the molten rock resists being thrown from the volcano, and when it does exit the earth, the reaction is much like shaking a can of soda and popping the top.

An eruption in 1937 killed over 500 people in Rabaul. Rabaul erupted again in 1994, destroyed Rabaul and killing 2 people. The geological activity is also responsible for the great heights the mountains reach. New Guinea is a where the great masses of Asia, Australia and the floor of the Pacific meet, each pushing against the other forcing the rock of New Guinea skyward. For this fact, New Guinea is the only tropical island with an altitude high enough to support glaciers on its peaks. Mount Jaya reaches 16,000 feet.
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Old 23-04-2002, 08:41 PM
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Photo taken after the Vulcan Volcano erupted in 1994:
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