Bird's Head Peninsula, Indonesia

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Moss forest at an altitude of 2,600 m in the Arfak Mountains, Bird's Head Peninsula, Western Irian Jaya Province, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Ian CRAVEN

Bird wonders of New Guinea’s western-most province

At the western end of New Guinea, a large piece of densely forested land juts out, connected to the rest of the island by a narrow stretch of land. This is Papua’s Bird's Head region.
The Bird’s Head Peninsula is covered by the Vogelkop Montane Rain Forests Ecoregion, which includes more than 2.2 million ha of montane forests at elevations of 1,000 m and higher. More than half of this area is located within 10 protected areas. Further inland, the Arfak and Tamrau mountains dominate the landscape.

Wildlife

There is a mind-boggling diversity of birds in the Vogelkop ecoregion. Of the more than 300 species found, scientists have determined that at least 20 of them are unique to the ecoregion, and some live only in very restricted areas.

Examples of these are the grey-banded munia (Lonchura vana), which can be found only in one small mountain range, and the Vogelkop bowerbird (Amblyornis inornatus), which is known to the mountain people as the "knowing bird." Males of this remarkable species construct hut-like structures in order to attract the attention of females. The king bird of paradise (Cicinnurus regius) is also found in the Vogelkop ecoregion, with males performing beautiful displays to attract females.

But birds are not the only remarkable things in this area. The Arfak Mountains, one of the most rugged mountain ranges on New Guinea (rising to 2,347 m above sea level), is home to 23 butterfly species unique to the island.

Indigenous people

Human population in the Vogelkop ecoregion is sparse. Most people live in villages along the coast, with small concentrations inland. Villagers practise subsistence farming by shifting cultivation of copra, rice, corn and peanuts, as well as hunting bushmeat and fish to supplement their dietary and economic life.

Problems

Road construction, illegal logging, commercial agricultural expansion and ranching potentially threaten the integrity of the area. Probably the most threatened are the Arfak Mountains, which are located near a major population centre, Manokwari, and face encroachment by population expansion, evident in the expansive oil palm plantations.

What WWF does

WWF's goals for the conservation of the Vogelkop ecoregion are to increase the number of protected areas and improve current forest management practices. In the northern portion of the Bird's Head Peninsula, WWF is facilitating the development of a biovision document, which will be used to assist local authorities in sustainable spatial planning.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Ian CRAVEN
Hatam people are unrestricted for traditional hunting with bow and arrow. This man has caught a Vogelkop tree kangaroo , also known as white-throated tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus ursinus). Arfak Mountains, Bird's head peninsula (Vogelkop region)
© WWF-Canon / Ian CRAVEN

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