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NATURAL HISTORY and GEOGRAPHY

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New Guinea CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE

The Boelen’s Python, Morelia boeleni, occurs on the world's second largest island, New Guinea. The island is divided into two countries Papua and West Papua (Irian Jaya), and covers 873,440 square kilometers a land mass twice the size of the state of California. The two countries are home to approximately 8 million people, rich with isolated diverse cultures.

       

New Guinea is one of three tropical regions in the world that has snow capped mountains. The highest, Mt Jaya 5500 meters, followed by Mt Trikora 5160 meters, and Mt Yamin 5100 meters. Some of the mountains are actually live volcanoes situated along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. The island's interior is very mountainous flowing out to rolling hills and lowlands with diverse plant and animal life. New Guinea is bordered by the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and contains several large rivers such as; the Fly, Sepik, Memberamo, and Purari. The country is subject to frequent and sometimes severe earthquakes, mudslides, and tsunamis.

Two seasons of monsoons occur; the tropical northwest monsoon, December through March, and the tropical southeast monsoon, May through October. Average rainfall per year ranges between two and five meters with extreme measures at 7 meters. Being an equatorial island a twelve hour light cycle for day and night occurs. Rainforest, cloud forest, and grasslands make up some of the ecological diversity of this island. Once attached to Australia by the Sahul land bridge the two countries share similar wildlife such as marsupials, birds, and one of my favorites the Green Tree Python, Morelia viridis, a cousin to Morelia boeleni. As with most developing countries habit destruction is abundant due to the growth of business, agricultural needs, and mining.

New Guinea is home to the world's largest gold and third largest copper mine, Grasberg, owned by the American mining company Freeport-McMoRan. Silver and manganese are mined as well. There is much to be discovered from this hard to travel island, and hopefully the future will reveal some of the mystery on the Boelen’s Python’s natural history.

 

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These photos represent Boelen's Python habitat within the Central Highlands of West Papua. Photo by Spataro

     

© 2007 Marc A. Spataro