Losing the forest in Papua

Papua New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. It is inhabited by diverse tribes that depend on nature to provide them with food and medicine. In ecological terms, the island has a rich array of botanical and animal species. Medicinal plants, which many natives use for traditional healing methods, are spread across the forest. Kangaroos, cassowaries, birds of paradise, cockatoos and crocodile are among the species.

Yet, as in the other parts of the world, global industry has started to penetrate remote areas of Papua New Guinea. Timber exploitation on the island has been occurring for decades. The number one timber commodity is merbau wood. Merbau trees provide hard timber that can be sold at a high price on the global market. A 2014 report by Chatham House outlined several major cases of illegal logging that have contributed to deforestation.

Many critics believe deforestation, industrial agriculture, mining and other mineral exploitation are major threats to the rich biodiversity in Papua New Guinea. Photojournalist Michael Eko Hardianto traveled to the island in late 2014 and early 2015 to conduct research along the Bird’s Head Peninsula, specifically the South Sorong Regency in the West Papua province of Indonesia. There, much of the natural biodiversity remains.

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