Tag Archives: West Papua people

The Rainforests of Our Sea – West Papua Declared World Conservation Province


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Wayag Island is one of the islands within the Raja Ampat district in the province of West Papua. The island is known for its beautiful atolls and amazing underwater life covering a total area of 155,000 hectares (about 383,013.3 acres).

I heard this interesting news yesterday that West Papua is declared as the first province anywhere in the world; and the entire province is now a world conservation site. West Papua remains part of Indonesia. One is hopeful that the political status and the livelihood of West Papua people will be recognised as well.

If coral reefs are the rainforests of the seas, then the Coral Triangle is the underwater equivalent of the Amazon. This is a bioregion that’s half the size of the United States, passes through six countries (the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea Solomon Islands and East Timor), and harbours more marine species than anywhere else on the planet. There are single reefs in the Coral Triangle that contain more species than the entire Caribbean. When it comes to abundance and sheer scale, nowhere else comes close to the Coral Triangle.

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A smart approach: The ultra-diverse marine resources of West Papua are now being managed with a seascape-level approach. (C) CI-I/MVErdmann – More at http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/04/13/management

The First World Conservation Province – West Papua

The Indonesian province of West Papua has just been declared a Conservation Province, a first for both Indonesia and the rest of the world. The new designation is important both symbolically and in ensuring the future health of the province’s astonishing ecosystems. Besides its rainforests, West Papua is the world’s epicentre of marine biodiversity, boasting more species than anywhere else on the planet.

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One of the women in Kapatcol hamlet in Misool shows her harvest. (Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy, Nugroho Arif Prabowo) – See more at: Jakarta Post

As forest fires rage in Sumatra in the midst of the worst El Nino weather event on record, this example of local government taking action in partnership with local communities and international NGOs shows that real, inclusive action is possible and that it can reach the legislative level.
The declaration was signed on Monday by West Papua governor Abraham Ataruri in Manokwari, the provincial capital, with Indonesia’s minister for Home Affairs, Tjahjo Kumolo in attendance. “This declaration will help us maintain and manage our natural resources wisely and continuously so that future generations can enjoy them,” said Ataruro. The new bylaw designating West Papua a Conservation Province falls under the jurisdiction of Indonesia’s Ministry for Forestry & the Environment.
Supported by Conservation International (CI), Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the local government in West Papua has set up a working group representing a range of civil and political bodies to ensure that the new legislation translates into meaningful action on the ground. They are now drawing up regional bills known as Ranperdasus.

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Pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion) in a purple magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica), Misool, Raja Ampat, West Papua. Picture: Alex Mustard/Steve Bloom Images / Rex Features

Background Information

Papua (both Papua and West Papua provinces) is a complex piece of the planet, partly because of its convoluted tectonic history that forms mountainous areas, prominent lakes, swamps and mangroves where Indonesia’s largest mangrove ecosystem is nestled at the head of Bintuni Bay.

The north-western part of Papua is also part of the Coral Triangle Marine Protected Area, containing the world’s greatest diversity of coral-reef fish, with more than 1,650 species in eastern Indonesia alone. Papua’s abundant coastline is magnificent, placed together with more than 1,000 fringing islands like Raja Ampat, Biak, Supiori, Yapen and the satellite islands of Cenderawasih Bay, which also contribute significantly to Papua’s astonishing features.

It is currently considered an area of global priority for biodiversity conservation because, in part, of the species-rich forest environment of Australopapuan fauna, as well as of many uniquely New Guinean species.

Papua has huge reserves of natural resources in the mining and oil and gas sectors and continues to retain some 80 percent forest cover, including large reserves of commercially valuable lowland rainforest.

These all significantly contributed to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the provinces.

Despite its socially rich environment, Papua and West Papua are among the provinces with the highest level of poverty in the country. A report by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) said that until March 2013, West Papua was among the eight provinces with the highest poverty rate (26.67 percent) — second after neighbouring Papua (31.13 percent).  Jakarta Post

A note from the author of this blog – so finally the world is going to conserve the land, place and environment of the West Papua people is this the sign that times are changing for West Papua people?  Could we apply the same kind of protection for the Melanesian PEOPLE in West Papua too?

Living in the Trees – The Korowai People


A life of contentment in the rainforest. The Korowai People of West Papua in Melanesia.

Irian Jaya's Kombai and Korowai people live in houses built in the treetops.
Irian Jaya’s Kombai and Korowai people live in houses built in the treetops.

Living in the trees is natural for the Korowai and Kombai people in  the southern eastern Papua. These tribal Melanesians are one of the last people on the planet who survive purely on their natural environment. The Korowai’s are also referred to as the Kolufo and have become known to the world through pictures and documentaries as one of the most amazing architects of tree houses.

The tree house builders survive in the basin of the Brazzan River in large areas of deep rainforest and swampy lowland. They are hunter-gatherers and horticulturists who practice shift-cultivation and have a very rich and an extraordinary oral tradition. They live together in small communities.

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Image: BBC Documentary

The higher they built a house, the more prestigious it is. The reason behind this amazing architecture which often reaches up to 100 feet or more off the ground is to avoid floods, insects and diseases. It was also a way to spot tribal enemies as the Korowai themselves had practiced cannibalism in the past.

Sowayen climbing down a “yambim” or ironwood tree after knocking loose a nest of black ants that he uses for fish bait. The Korowai are superb climbers, and get up thick trees like this by gripping vines with their hands and splayed toes. It took him about a minute to get up this tree, and it took Neeld Messler, a rope expert, over an hour to rig this tree with ropes so the photographer could climb it safely. In the lower left corner Sayah is watching. One of their fishing methods is to put a piece of an ant nest in the water and wait for the fish to come and eat the drowning ants. The fisherman hides behind foliage on the river bank, and shoots the fish with a four-pointed arrow. This picture was taken as part of an expedition for GEO Magazine and National Geographic Magazine to document the way of life of the Korowai tribe. Most of the Korowai in these photos had never had prior contact with anyone outside of their language group, and have no material goods from the outside world. They live in tree houses built above the forest floor to protect themselves from outsiders. The Korowai believe that contact with outsiders will bring an end to their culture. Cannibalism has been part of their traditional system of criminal justice to avenge the death of their clansmen, but the practice is dying out and is outlawed by the Indonesian government. The Korowai believe that most natural deaths are caused by sorcery, and must be avenged by the death (and consumption) of the person responsible.
Sowayen climbing down a “yambim” or ironwood tree after knocking loose a nest of black ants that he uses for fish bait. The Korowai are superb climbers, and get up thick trees like this by gripping vines with their hands and splayed toes. This picture was taken as part of an expedition for GEO Magazine and National Geographic Magazine to document the way of life of the Korowai tribe.

The Korowai people build their houses high above the forest floor, and deep in the swampy lowland jungles of Papua.

In the BBC documentary below, you can watch from start to finish, how a Korowai tree house is built.

Film: Forgotten Bird of Paradise


West Papua Freedom

The first of December was the day West Papua got its Independence from the Dutch Colony, only to be occupied 12 months later by the Indonesian Army. The struggle for West Papua’s freedom to protect their people, culture and land, continues to this date. Two years ago, British filmmaker Dominic Brown travelled without the knowledge or authority of the Indonesian authorities in order to film Forgotten Bird of Paradise. The documentary (26.5mins) has received acclaim, providing a rare and moving insight into the forgotten struggle for independence that has gripped West Papua for over 50 years. It includes never before seen footage of OPM rebel fighters at their stronghold deep in the Papuan jungle, as well as interviews with human rights victims of the Indonesian regime.

Yusak Pakage Amnesty International ‘prisoner of conscience’

Most startling of all is an interview conducted with Yusak Pakage, a high-profile West Papuan political prisoners recognised by Amnesty International as a ‘prisoner of conscience’. He is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for peacefully raising the West Papuan flag during a ceremony in 2004. The interview was recorded in secret by Brown during a hospital visit where Pakage was receiving treatment for torture.

The documentary also provides an insight into recent developments on the international arena including the launch of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua. This has seen a number of influential politicians from around the world come together to coordinate international action against the ongoing occupation, and bring about the means whereby the West Papuan people will eventually gain their long-lost right to self-determination.
Frequently breathtaking and thought-provoking, Forgotten Bird of Paradise provides a remarkable insight into a world where ancient traditions and cultures live on into the modern age. Above all it shows the inspiring resilience of a people who have suffered so much under Indonesian occupation, but whose determination for freedom burns stronger now than at any time in history. Finally their cries are starting to be heard.
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Produced, directed & filmed by Dominic Brown