Papua New Guinea, half of the giant island of New Guinea just above Australia, is an ecological masterpiece. It is home to the world’s third-largest rainforest, more than 200,000 different plant and animal species and abundant natural gas reserves.
But there is a special area stretching 300 kilometers from Papua New Guinea’s towering Highlands down to the coast, comprised of mostly untouched, rarely traversed land. It includes the Kikori River Basin and Hides Ridge and, as a result of comprehensive biodiversity studies, a number of newly discovered inhabitants.
In 2005, more than a decade before ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG (liquefied natural gas) project began there in earnest, the company and its partners deployed scientists to catalogue the remote area’s biodiversity.
During such surveys, scientists carefully document an area’s plant and animal species, all in an effort to mitigate any impact generated by the forthcoming operations. The work is meticulous and time-consuming, but it has provided a sound scientific basis for the future conservation and management of the region’s biodiversity in partnership with local communities. The PNG LNG surveys also resulted in the discovery of several new species of wildlife, especially plants and frogs.
“The process that ExxonMobil undertook to document and look after biodiversity in the project area revealed a lot of new discoveries,” recalls Steve Richards, an independent researcher who has been involved in this comprehensive effort since 2005. “The forest on Hides Ridge is particularly entrancing. I’ve never seen so many birds of paradise in one area,” Richards adds.
Now these creatures are available to you, too. Click through the images below to discover some of the exciting species inhabiting Papua New Guinea’s Kikori River Basin.
This male crested satinbird, Cnemophilus macgregorii, lives in the moss forest high on Hides Ridge. Dark chocolate below and orange above, a groove in its crown conceals 4-6 curved crest feathers that are raised in display to the female.
This tube-nosed bat, Nyctimene albiventer, is a fruit-eating species found in the lowlands and foothills of New Guinea. The tube-like nostrils may help the bat breathe when its face is buried in a squishy ripe fruit.
Living high in the rainforest canopy, this Sauron tree frog, Litoria sauroni, is rarely seen. It has extensive webbing between the fingers and is probably capable of gliding from tree to tree.
New Guinea’s Gouria pigeons are the largest in the world, and with its wonderful crown of feathers, this Scheepmaker's Crowned Pigeon (Goura scheepmakeri) is surely one of the most spectacular.
Among the numerous biological treasures discovered for the first time is this little gem, a Rhododendron species from Hides Ridge.
The green tree python, Morelia viridis, is a harmless snake found in the lowlands and foothills of the Kikori Basin. Juveniles are normally yellow, but as they grow, they change color to bright green.
Lush tropical rainforest blankets the rugged terrain surrounding Wasi Falls in the lower Kikori Basin.
Diadem horseshoe bats, Hipposideros diadema, are extremely adept predators. With the help of their highly specialized “nose-leaf,” they use echolocation to detect small flying insects, swooping down from a hidden perch to snatch their prey from midair.
A splash of color within the dripping moss forest of Hides Ridge revealed this Dendrobium orchid, one of about 3,000 orchid species so far known to occur on the island of New Guinea. New species of orchids are discovered here every year!
A jewel of the New Guinea rainforest, the diminutive, blue-footed king bird of paradise, Cicinnurus regius, is more often heard than seen in the lowland forests of the Kikori Basin.
The bizarre appearance of this spike-nosed tree frog, Litoria prora, is matched by its unusual breeding behavior. These frogs will glue their eggs to the underside of rainforest foliage, where the embryos will develop before dropping into a forest pool below.