Sabtu, 02 Mei 2009


Few places on this planet seem as mysterious to the would-be traveler as Borneo. The romance and imagery of the tropical rain forest has intrigued humans since the first European explorers visited in the late 1500's. The jungle invoked visions of impenetrable vegetation, drenched with rain and overflowing with unfamiliar and perhaps dangerous animals! It was overpowering and apparently untamable, a strange yet mysterious place. But, even today, a trip into the rain forest still provides a sense of questing for knowledge and exploring the unknown. Join me for a brief look at Borneo's exotic landscape which continues to inspire wonder.

Dawn in the primary rainforest

Many of Borneo's forest trees rise straight up from the jungle floor for 150 feet or more before spreading out into the leafy crowns that support the rolling green surface of the canopy. Using the canopy catwalk, we are able to view the lofty domain of the Hornbill as well as other birds and plants. The rain forest canopy has been described as an entire plant community above ground. Numerous animals found in this habitat are born and die without ever touching the ground.

As usual in the rain forest, no mammals are visible except for an occasional squirrel scurrying along a low branch and there are only quick flashes of birds in the canopy. Yet the sounds of unseen creatures surround us. The Bornean rain forest is rarely silent. The wash of forest sounds seem random at first, however, the background drone is an incessant almost irritating whine of cicadas set against the endless "ttok-took-tarook-took-took" of barbets up in the canopy. Punctuating the bird songs are mysterious guttural grunts, roars and barks: monkeys, orangutan, barking deer??

These sounds always come from just around the bend. It is never easy to tell exactly from where or what is calling. Close your eyes and try to imagine the sounds of the rain forest!!!

Creatures of the Rain Forest

On viewing the ORANG UTAN, Borneo's only great ape, it is startling to see how "human-like" they seem! They are mostly solitary and one of our closest relatives. Like humans, they have evolved remarkable intelligence. They are mainly fruit-eaters and make nightly "nests" at the end of the day. Found throughout the island, it is estimated that only 30,000 remain in the wild.

The RHINOCEROS HORNBILLS are found throughout Borneo. Hornbills are critical to the dispersal of the figs because they eat the entire fruit, including the seed, and then fly long distances dispersing the seeds widely. When the female is ready to lay her eggs, she imprisons herself in her nest in the hollow of a tree by plastering the opening with mud and does not emerge for the next three months. The male delivers food to her when the hornbill chick is partly reared, the female breaks down the nest wall and emerges. Thus her chicks are protected against marauding snakes and other tree-dwelling predators!

It is early afternoon as we travel down the Kinabatangan River in eastern Sabah mainly to see Borneo's endemic PROBOSCIS MONKEYS. Although they are confined to mangrove forest and coastal habitats, these monkeys can be found living hundreds of kilometers upstream along fresh-water rivers.

And that is exactly where we spotted them, along the river banks, looking for succulent young leaves and shoots! Proboscis monkeys are largely arboreal but will swim across rivers. His trademark huge nose hangs on his reddish bare face like a pendulous fruit. He is the rarest of the leaf-eating monkeys and is one of the world's strangest primates!!

About Leech Socks

One of the first encounters in the rain forest, though not the most pleasant, is the forest leech. Leeches are predatory blood-sucking animals which are found in the humid forest understory. I'm pictured here wearing my "green leech socks" in the hope that I will not fall prey to one of their bites. Since leeches are found on low lying plants, the socks prevent them from attaching themselves at that level. Luckily, I did not receive any leech bites!


One of the rarest and most astonishing flowers in the world, including the very largest, is found only in Borneo and Sumatra! The Rafflesia flower starts as a small bud and can take over a year to flower. Rafflesia plants are parasitic, lacking both leaves and roots. The flower is not designed for beauty. In fact, the five fleshy, petal like lobes, marbled red and white, resemble dead meat and through chemical reaction the flower generates a strong odor of rotting flesh. This attracts carrion feeders drawn by the fleshy color pattern and the stench! After a few days, the Rafflesia flower turns brown and rots. Thus the world's rarest plant lives for a few days making it extremely difficult to see in the wild.


Much of Borneo is as mysterious now as it was a hundred years ago and much may be forever a mystery. Magnificent forests are being destroyed that contain plants and animals we will never know. In Borneo, as with much of the natural world, there is a critical race between preservation and development. Large areas of forest have been set aside as wildlife reserves, but dwindling forest reserves and growing populations surrounding these areas will threaten even the best-managed parks with encroachments from logging, slash-and-burn farming, and overhunting.

I feel lucky to have visited these magnificent rainforests, and I'll always remember my early morning walks in the forest, being greeted by the rich whooping calls of the Bornean Gibbons as well as the symphony of sound from the millions of insects and birds. The great diversity of plants makes Borneo a botanical paradise. However, the policies of Indonesian Kalimantan and of Malaysian Sarawak and Sabah will determine whether or not enough forest is preserved to support the island's incredible diversity of wildlife. Let us hope that the rain forest will remain with us forever.

Papua and West Papua

Western New Guinea is the Indonesian western half of the island of New Guinea and consists of two provinces, Papua and West Papua.It was previously known by various names, including Netherlands New Guinea (1895–1 October 1962), West New Guinea (1 October 1962–1 May 1963), West Irian (1 May 1963–1973), and Irian Jaya (1973–2000). The incorporation of western New Guinea into Indonesia remains controversial with human rights NGOs, including some supporters in the United States Congress and other bodies, as well as many of the territory's indigenous population. Many indigenous inhabitants and human rights NGOs refer to it as West Papua.

Western New Guinea was annexed by Indonesia under the 1969 Act of Free Choice in accord with the controversial 1962 New York Agreement. During the rule of President Suharto from 1965 to 1998, human rights and other advocates criticized Indonesian government policies in the province as repressive, and the area received relatively little attention in Indonesia's development plans. During the Reformasi period from 1998 to 2001, Papua and other Indonesian provinces received greater regional autonomy. In 2001, a law was passed granting "Special Autonomy" status to Papua, although many of the law's requirements have either not been implemented or have been only minimally implemented.[1][2][3]

In 2003, the Indonesian central government declared that the province would be split into three provinces: Papua Province, Central Irian Jaya Province, and West Irian Jaya Province. Opposition to this resulted in the plan for Central Irian Jaya province being scrapped, and even the designation of West Irian Jaya Province is still legally unclear. Despite this, the West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat) province was formed on February 6, 2006 and the name was officially changed to West Papua (Papua Barat) on February 7, 2007. The independent sovereign state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) borders Papua Province to the east.

Papuans have inhabited the Australasian continental island of Papua for over 40,000 years while Austronesians have been there for several thousand years. These groups have developed diverse cultures and languages in situ; there are over 300 languages and two hundred additional dialects in West New Guinea alone .

On June 13, 1545 Ortiz de Retez, in command of the San Juan, left port in Tidore, an island of the East Indies and sailed to reach the northern coast of the island of New Guinea, which he ventured along as far as the mouth of the Mamberamo River. He took possession of the land for the Spanish Crown, in the process giving the island the name by which it is known today. He called it Nueva Guinea owing to the resemblance of the local inhabitants to the peoples of the Guinea coast in West Africa.

Dutch control
In 1828, the Dutch claimed the south coast west of the 141st meridian, and in 1848 added the north coast west of Humboldt Bay. The border at 141° East was 'marked' on the coast by iron signpost displaying the Dutch coat of arms by an expedition in 1881[4]. The Netherlands established trading posts in the area after Britain and Germany recognised the Dutch claims in treaties of 1885 and 1895. At much the same time, Britain claimed south-east New Guinea later known as the Territory of Papua and Germany claimed the northeast, later known as the Territory of New Guinea.

In 1923, the Nieuw Guinea Beweging (New Guinea Movement) was created in the Netherlands by ultra right-wing supporters calling for Dutchmen to create a tropical Netherlands in Papua. This prewar movement without full government support was largely unsuccessful in its drive, but did coincide with the development of a plan for Eurasian settlement of the Dutch Indies to establish Dutch farms in northern West New Guinea. This effort also failed as most returned to Java disillusioned, and by 1938 just 50 settlers remained near Hollandia and 258 in Manokwari.

In the early 1930s, the need for a national Papuan government was discussed by graduates of the Dutch Protestant Missionary Teachers College in Mei Wondama, Manokwari. These graduates continued their discussions among the wider community and quickly succeeded in cultivating a desire for national unity across the region and its three hundred languages. The College Principal Rev. Kijne also composed "Hai Tanahku Papua" ("Oh My Land Papua"), which in 1961 was adopted as the national anthem.

A exploration company NNGPM was formed in 1935 by Shell (40%), Mobil (40%) and Chevron's Far Pacific investments (20%) to explore West New Guinea. During 1936, Jean Dozy working for NNGPM reported the world's richest gold and copper deposits in a mountain near Timika which he named Ertsberg (Mountain of Ore). Unable to license the find from the Dutch or indigenous landowners, NNGPM maintained secrecy of the discovery.

In 1942, the northern coast of West New Guinea and the nearby islands were occupied by Japan. Allied forces expelled the Japanese in 1944, and with Papuan approval, the United States constructed a headquarters for Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Hollandia (now Jayapura) and over twenty US bases and hospitals intended as a staging point for operations taking of the Philippines.

West New Guinean farms supplied food for the half million US troops. Papuan men went into battle to carry the wounded, acted as guides and translators, and provided a range of services, from construction work and carpentry to serving as machine shop workers and mechanics.

The Dutch retained possession of West New Guinea from 1945, but upon reaching Java 4,000 km west they did not find similar levels of support from the population of Java. Indonesian leaders Mohammad Hatta and Sukarno had declared independence weeks before and claimed all Dutch possessions should become part of the United States of Indonesia. The dispute continued until the Round Table Conference, which was held from August to October 1949 at the Hague. Unable to reach a compromise on the matter of West New Guinea, the conference closed with the parties agreeing to discuss the West New Guinea issue within one year.

In December 1950[5] the United Nations requested the Special Committee on Decolonization to accept transmission of information regarding the territory in accord with Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations. Article 73e constituted formal recognition of the territory's right to independence and the Netherlands obligation to assist. After repeated Indonesian claims to possession of Dutch New Guinea, the Netherlands invited Indonesia to present its claim before an International Court of Law. Indonesia declined the offer. Concerned by Indonesian insurgencies beginning in 1950, the Netherlands accelerated its education and technical programs in preparation for independence. A naval academy was opened in 1956, and Papuan troops and naval cadets began service by 1957.

By 1959, Papuans were nurses, dental surgeons, draftsmen, architects, telephone repairmen, and radio and power technicians, cultivating a range of experimental commercial crops and serving as police, forestry and meteorological staff. This progress towards self-government was documented in reports prepared for the United Nations from 1950 to 1961.

Local Council elections were held and Papuan representatives elected from 1955. On 6 March 1959 the New York Times published an article revealing the Dutch government had discovered alluvial gold flowing into the Arafura Sea and were searching for the gold's mountain source.[citation needed] In 1959, Freeport Sulphur approached the Dutch East Borneo company for partnership. An agreement signed in January 1960 to lodge a Dutch claim for the Timika area as a copper deposit did not inform the government about the gold or known extent of the copper deposit.[citation needed]

Election of a national parliament began on 9 January 1961 in fifteen electoral districts with direct voting in Manokwari and Hollandia to select 26 Councillors, of whom 16 were elected, 12 appointed, 23 were Papuan, and one female Councillors. The Councillors were sworn in by Governor Platteel on 1 April 1961, and the Council took office on 5 April 1961. The inauguration was attended by officials from Australia, Britain, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and members of the South Pacific Commission; a large Australian delegation was headed by Mr Hasluck MP and included Sir Alistair McMullan, President of Australian Senate. The United States declined the invitation to attend the inauguration.

After news that the Hague was considering an United States plan to trade the territory to United Nations administration, Papuan Councillors met for six hours in the New Guinea Council building on 19 October 1961 to elect a National Committee which drafted a Manifesto for Independence & Self-government, a National flag (Morning Star), State Seal, selected a national anthem ("Hai Tanahkoe Papua" / "Oh My Land Papua"), and called for the people to be known as Papuans. The New Guinea Council voted unanimous support of these proposals on 30 October 1961, and on the 31st October 1961 presented the Morning Star flag and Manifesto to Governor Platteel who said (translated) "Never before has the oneness of the Council been put forward so strongly." The Dutch recognized the flag and anthem on November 18, 1961 (Government Gazettes of Dutch New Guinea Nos. 68 and 69), and these ordinances came into effect on December 1, 1961.