Tag Archives: West Papua

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

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.

up FOR CI 1
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.

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.

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?

Papua New Guinea at a juncture

A Report from Radio New Zealand International’s Johnny Blades.

Papua New Guinea is at a juncture, experiencing unprecedented economic growth but still mired by poverty, tribalism and parlous human development outcomes.  Exxon Mobil’s $US19 billion Liquefied Natural Gas project in PNG began exports last year, marking a major milestone in the country’s development as a foreign investment destination and energy hub.

Yet the benefits from development of PNG’s abundant natural resources – mineral, oil, forestry, fisheries and others – appear mainly confined to a tiny part of the population.
RNZI’s Johnny Blades travelled to PNG and, in this video report, he asks if PNG can convert its significant resources wealth into tangible gains for its burgeoning population.

West Papua Finally Gets a ‘Place’ in Melanesian Spearhead Group

SBS News June 26, 2015.

Australia’s nearest Pacific neighbours have taken the lead in trying to broker a peaceful future for Indonesia’s contested West Papuan provinces.

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia’s FLNKS took the step at the 20th Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) summit in Honiara.

Since Indonesia took over the former Dutch colony in the 1960s, there has been a brutal conflict in West Papua that is estimated to have cost hundreds-of-thousands of lives.

The MSG leaders gave the West Papuan independence movement observer status, rejecting an application for full membership.

Indonesia has been an observer since 2011 and was upgraded to associated membership at the summit.

“The leaders approved the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) as an observer member under the regional and international category representing West Papuans living abroad,” said Solomon Islands prime minister and MSG chair Manasseh Sogavare.

“Associate membership is accorded to Indonesia representing the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia. I have the greatest pleasure in welcoming them.”

The West Papuans were hoping for full membership of the MSG but accept observer status as a first step.

The Indonesians will be represented at the MSG by the governors of its five Papuan provinces.

“Building a strong Melanesia in the Pacific is certainly a desire for our every member country,” said PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill.

More on SBS

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.

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.
Produced, directed & filmed by Dominic Brown

The Centrepiece

At the age of 15, in high school, I wore the same headdress my grandmother and I made. To date, I have this precious item with me. It has changed, lost some feathers but it still works as a centrepiece every time I wear it on my forehead.

Memoir series by JLeahy

Mother returned from the Lae city markets. It was a Saturday afternoon. Today, we were preparing for a big singsing in our village. We were preparing our best for the Annual Morobe Show. There would be hundreds of tribal groups and performers so, we had to wear only authentic costumes. We had to wear the costumes carrying markings and stories of our people and the costumes we inherited from our ancestors. I needed a centrepiece for my headdress.

As she came up to me, I searched Mother’s face for emotion. She teased my un-spoken questions with the twinkle and mystery she showed in her eyes. Finally, she was smiling. Her lips remained sealed more so because she was chewing but I knew she got it. I broke a smile at her and completed my task.

“There was only one Highlander selling two tiyeng ngawahu (Bird of Paradise plumes) and I bought one”, she said.

“Ohhh ngayam!” grandma responded in Bukawac, meaning “good”.
Grandma was pleased the mission was accomplished.

I sat next to Grandma, helping her to twist the sisal fibres on my thigh into strings. We twisted two separate bunches of single fibres which formed a string. Then, we dyed the strings yellow and orange with turmeric roots, and red from Mbuec, a tree that gave red dye in its seed pods. To get grey, we buried the other strings in the muddy banks for a few weeks. For the black we used crushed charcoal with coconut oil. Once dried, Grandma used a ‘needle’ made from a 15cm long re-cycled and sharpened wire. This ‘needle’ came from the inside of a broken umbrella bone. Grandma sewed the strings into bilums (string-bags). The new bilums will be worn in the dance on the day.

We used some of the strings to thread scented leaves and herbs for breast decoration. These same leaves were used for magic, but I was not allowed to know. Not yet, Grandma said.

As she tried to speak, Mother’s mouth was full of red chewed betel nut and she needed to spit. She eased her bilum of food down in a heavy thud. She fished in her smaller shoulder bilum and spat. She held out her hand with a crumpled newspaper wrap.
I jumped up to grab it.

“Careful!.. be careful!”

I was thrilled. Without searching her bag as I usually do for the market gifts of peanuts, green margarines and cucumbers, I turned away from Mother. I smiled at the faded newspaper as I bent and laid the small light bundle on the dry sand next to my twisted strings. I sat down and brought Mother’s parcel to my lap and un-wrapped it.

I was afraid to touch her at first. The bird was beautiful and so soft. A spot of black around her beak. Green velvet on her neck and breast. The rest of her body was a burnt butter yellow with a white centre and a beautiful pale yellow outer-feathers.  The base of the main feathers was an intense, vibrant golden-yellow which faded out into white. Her inside was gone. It was shallow. She had been dried, smoked and flattened.

I suddenly felt a pang of guilt and pain swept over me. I thought of the bird flying high and calling out in the trees and I wondered if she suffered. I felt more guilty about this bird than the chickens which I already had feathers from. I was seven and never held a real Bird of Paradise in my hand, even a dead one. I had seen many on headdresses during the festivals. I have held other birds and had parrots as pets. I looked at the bird a little more, each faint wiry piece that joined the next.  Then I reached out and touched her.

Of the 39 species of the Birds of Paradise in the island of New Guinea (PNG and West Papua), this one, known as “Greater Bird of Paradise” was the most precious centrepiece for our tribal headdress. The birds did not live in our bush. Our people traded and bought the feathers from the highlanders.
Mother had to seek out hunters from Western and Southern Highlands who rarely brought the feathers to the main market in Lae. She was very lucky today.

To have a Bird of Paradise as your centrepiece was the ultimate dream of every dancer in our tribe. Many other Papua New Guinean tribes wore numerous plumes in singsings. Many more longed for such honour but only settled for parrot, cassowary, and chicken feathers. This bird was our National emblem.
In our Wagang village singsing group, most people wore cockatoo, parrot, cassowary, turkey, guinea fowl and chicken feathers – all made into spectacular head pieces.

I laid out the Bird of Paradise plume and stitched it into my headdress. The headdress was made of feathers and shells, sewn onto a tapa cloth. Most of the headdress was completed days before. I was only waiting for the centrepiece. The cloth would be tied around my head. The Bird of Paradise would be the centre feature. When I wore the headdress, the golden-yellow, wispy and silky soft feathers would sit high above and dance. The beak would be looking down at me and her tail would move with me as I danced the we-e si-ing (war dance).


Protected Species – the Birds of Paradise are a protected species in both Papua New Guinea and West Papua (Indonesia)


Much sought after as pets or for their feathers, several birds of the forests of New Guinea such as parrots, lorries and birds of paradise are illegally exported for trade. But just the local use of a species can be detrimental to its survival; wildlife capture and trade of cassowary for traditional use has severely reduced their populations in some areas and where they remain, there is increased pressure for trade.7

Birds of paradise have also been historically traded, especially for their feathers. While West Papuans’ use of the birds’ feathers in cultural celebrations is part of their tradition, Europe was once the main market for the plumes, to be used for women’s hats and accessories. Trade peaked in the late 19th century, when plumes from more than 50,000 birds were exported every year, generally to Paris for capes and hats.8

Birds of paradise continue to be smuggled out of Papua Province, Indonesia. The trade in the birds adds to the pressure they already get from continued hunting and the destruction of their habitat by logging, road construction and conversion for human use. Although banned by the Indonesian government since 1990, trading in the feathers of the birds of paradise is still ongoing.9



West Papua Needs Peace – Do we care?

Where is West Papua? »

I made a post about some American surfers making a discovery in West Papua and wanted to explain my connection to that story. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, just 200 km north of Australia. The Eastern half is Papua New Guinea, where I come from. Visit links to many sites that show West Papua and how its people have been treated and decide for yourselves.

It is important to get as many people as possible world-wide to become aware of the violence and oppression in West Papua (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Papua_(region)). We can never do enough. I am sure by now, even the Melanesian people from other countries such as my own (PNG), Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and South Sea Islanders must feel that there is nothing more they can do to help their fellow-Melanesians.

The people of West Papua deserve peace. They do not deserve the continued violence. (http://freewestpapua.org).

Why am I interested in West Papua? I have been an advocate against the violence against West Papua, Indonesia for over 30 years. Firstly as a journalist in Papua New Guinea, I have known of and seen the victims of the atrocities. Secondly, I am a Melanesian woman and I share the ancestry with West Papuans.

If it means sharing information, publicising atrocities and showing films as in the case of the surfers’ film “Isolation”, then let’s join hands and do it for West Papua. We must keep fighting.



Letting the world know about the killings in West Papua

These Pro Surfers Went Looking for Untouched Waves in West Papua and Found Genocide Instead

By Ben Roffee ryot.org

It all started with a simple surf trip, just a few world class big wave surfers trying to find an unclaimed break in a world where they’ve all but vanished.

They are modern day explorers — feral surfers as they’re known — and they step off the well-trodden path to seek out surfing at its purest.

But Travis Potter, Jenny Useldinger, Andrew Mooney, Josh Fuller, and Jimmy Rotherham headed to West Papua looking for massive, unsullied waves, they discovered an alarming truth that would radically upend their priorities.

Read and see more,  click on the links: