Papua is one of Indonesia province comprising a majority part of the western half of New Guinea Island and nearby. The province originally covered the entire western half of New Guinea, but in 2003, the western portion of the province, on the Bird’s Head Peninsula, was declared in Jakarta as separate province named West Irian Jaya. The legality of this separation has been disputed, as it appears to conflict with the conditions of the Special Autonomy status awarded to Papua in the year 2000. The status of West Irian Jaya province is not yet resolved as of early 2006.
Papua is the official Indonesian and internationally recognized name for the province. During the colonial era the region was known as Dutch New Guinea. The province was known as West Irian or Irian Barat from 1969 to 1973, and then renamed Irian Jaya (“Victorious Irian”) by Soeharto. This was the official name until Papua was adopted in 2002. Today, natives of this province prefer to call themselves Papuans rather than Irianese. This may be due to etymology (variously identified as a real etymology or a folk etymology) the name of Irian, which stems from the acronym Ikut Republik Indonesia, Anti Nederland (join/follow with the Republic of Indonesia, rejecting The Netherlands). The name West Papua is used among Papuan separatists and usually refers to the whole of the Indonesian portion of New Guinea.
The capital of Papua province is Jayapura. Most of the population depends on subsistence farming, especially the cultivation of rice and maize. The main industries include copper (with the largest concentration of copper in the world at Tembagapura), palm oil, copra, maize, groundnuts, pepper, tuna, gold, oil, coal, and phosphates. It is mostly a mountainous and forested region, with the Maoke Mountain range rising to 5,029-m/16,499 ft at Jaya Peak. The population comprises Melanesians (original settlers of Western New Guinea), Papuans, Negritos, and Europeans. Indigenous animism prevails. The province declared independence from Indonesia, as West Papua, in June 2000. However, the president of Indonesia stated that the declaration was unrepresentative of true feeling in the province.
GeographicallyA central East-West mountain range dominates the geography of New Guinea, over 1600 km in total length. The western section is around 600 km long and 100 km across. Steep mountains 3000 to 4000 m and up to 5000 m high along the range ensure a steady supply of rain from the tropical atmosphere. The tree line is around 4000 m elevation and the tallest peaks are snowbound year round.
Both North and West of the central ranges the land remains mountainous mostly 1000 to 2000 m high covered by thick rain forest and a warm humid year round climate. The third major habitat feature is the southeast lowlands with extensive wetlands stretching for hundreds of kilometers.
Mamberamo River sometimes referred to the “Amazon of Papua” is the province’s largest river, which winds through the northern part of the province. The result is a large area of lakes and rivers known as the Lakes Plains region. The famous Baliem Valley, home of the Dani people is a tableland 1600 m above sea level in the midst of the central mountain range; Jaya Peak, sometimes known by its former Dutch name Carstensz Pyramid, is a mist covered limestone mountain peak 5030 m above sea level.
Wide AreaThe wide area of Papua is 420,000 sq km/162,000 sq mi.
PopulationPapua population based on 2000 est. is 2,220,900. It has some 240 different tribal peoples, each with its own language and culture. Indigenous Papuans in West Papua and Papua New Guinea speak some 15% of the world’s known languages. West Papua together with the rest of the island of New Guinea, are the lungs of the Asia-Pacific, containing the last great surviving virgin rainforest after the Amazon.
DemographicsThe population of Papua province and the neighboring West Irian Jaya, both of which are still under a united administration, totaled 2,646,489 in 2005. Since the early 1990s, Papua has had the highest population growth rate of all Indonesian provinces at over 3% annually. This is partly a result of high birth rates, but also from immigration from other regions in Indonesia.
According to the 2000 census, 78% of the Papuan population identified themselves as Christian with 54% being Protestant and 24% being Catholic. 21% of the population was Muslim and less than 1% were Buddhist or Hindu. There is also substantial practice of animism by Papuans, which is not recorded by the Indonesian government in line with the policy of Pancasila.
EcologyA vital tropical rainforest with the tallest tropical trees and vast biodiversity, Papua’s known forest fauna includes marsupials (including possums, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, cuscuses), other mammals (including the endangered Long-beaked Echidna), many bird species (including birds of paradise, cassowaries, parrots, cockatoos), the world’s longest lizards (Papua monitor) and the world’s largest butterflies. The island has an estimated 16,000 species of plant, 124 genera of which are endemic.
The extensive waterways and wetlands of Papua are also home to salt and freshwater crocodile, tree monitor, flying foxes, osprey, bats and other animals; while the equatorial glacier fields remain largely unexplored.
In February 2006, a team of scientists exploring the Foja Mountains, Sarmi, discovered numerous new species of birds, butterflies, amphibians, and plants, including a species of rhododendron, which may have the largest bloom of the genus. Ecological threats include logging-induced deforestation, forest conversion for plantation agriculture (especially oil palm), small holder agricultural conversion, the introduction and potential spread of non-native alien species such as the Crab-eating Macaque, which preys on and competes with indigenous species, the illegal species trade, and water pollution from oil and mining operations.