TransFly ecoregion | WWF

TransFly ecoregion

River in the TransFly ecoregion, New Guinea.
© Brent Stirton-Getty Images-WWF-UK

Home to some of the largest and healthiest wetlands in Asia-Pacific

In southcentral New Guinea lays a vast, low-lying coastal region of grasslands, savannas, wetlands and monsoon forest, covering more than 10 million ha. Some of the largest and healthiest wetlands in Asia-Pacific are found here, thriving in an area sparsely settled by humans but actively used by countless species. This is the TransFly.


Around 50 mammal species have adapted to the TransFly’s ecosystems. These include the critically endangered Fly River leptomys (Leptomys signatus), the dusky pademelon (Thylogale bruinii) and Fly River trumpet eared bat (Kerivoula muscina). The TransFly is also the only habitat of the New Guinea marsupial cat and the bronze quoll (Dasyurus spartacus).

The TransFly is the richest area in New Guinea for freshwater turtles, with 9 of the 11 species occurring on the island living here. The New Guinea pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) is the sole living representative of the family Carettochelidae, which once had a worldwide distribution.

Charting a myriad of routes over the region is the TransFly’s distinct bird life. With 360 species recorded, the ecoregion contains approximately one half of all bird species recorded from New Guinea, including 90 that are found only on the island. Here, one can encounter the greater bird of paradise (Paradisaea apoda), the little paradise kingfisher (Tanysiptera hydrocharis) and the Fly River grassbird (Megalurus albolimbatus), among others.

Plant life is equally diverse, with the monsoon forests containing an exceptionally high number of endemic plants (found nowhere else).

Indigenous peoples

There are over 60 cultural groups, whose lives, customs, languages and knowledge are interwoven with the landscapes of the TransFly.  The languages and dialects spoken in the region belong largely to 3 language families classified as the Marind; Marori; and Morehead & Upper Maro River families.

The Marind and Marori families are found only in West Papua, whereas the Morehead & Upper Maro River family straddles the international border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Within these broad language families are a proliferation of dialects and sub-dialects.


Isolated wild places are never immune to threats. The TransFly is under immense pressure from unplanned development, with large areas of native grasslands converted for irrigated rice cultivation and almost the entire monsoon forest area –2.5 million ha  - targeted for logging. if all existing and proposed concessions and agricultural areas are cleared, then we would end up with less than 900,000 ha scattered in small, often unviable patches across the ecoregion.

Numerous roads and settlements are being developed haphazardly, threatening key watersheds. And alien species, which have found their way into the ecoregion, are a menace for native wildlife. 

What WWF does

The TransFly Programme is an initiative managed jointly by WWF in PNG and Papua, Indonesia, and is the first example of a cross-border terrestrial ecoregion programme on the island.

Through this effort, we are tackling issues such as poorly planned commercial forestry and plantation crops, non-traditional burning, infrastructure development and over- exploitation of natural resources.

This is part of our plan to fill a major gap in conservation planning. To provide a conservation blueprint based on this crucial ecosystem, rather than on political boundaries, WWF is developing a Biodiversity Vision for the entire TransFly Ecoregion.
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What is a biovision?

The Biodiversity Vision (or Biovision) for the TransFly is a blueprint for long-term planning and conservation in the area. This groundbreaking effort is helping WWF define which areas are important from a biological and cultural perspective.
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