South Papuan lowlands

Country/Territory Indonesia; Papua New Guinea
Area 160,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 1000 m
Priority high
Habitat loss limited
Knowledge poor

General characteristics

This EBA includes the south-west lowlands and foothills bordering the Snow and Star mountains from the Mimika river (in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya) to the drainages of the Kikori and Purari rivers (in Papua New Guinea), including the upper waters of the Fly and Strickland rivers. The northern boundary of the EBA is defined by the 1,000 m contour which divides it from the Central Papuan ranges (EBA 178), and the southern boundary by the coastline and the Trans-Fly (EBA 180).

The vegetation of the region includes lowland, hill and lower montane rain forest with extensive inland swamps following the main river courses.

Restricted-range species

The restricted-range species of this EBA represent a mixed group both in terms of their habitat requirements and their distribution. In general data are few and the birds may be more widely distributed in fact than current records indicate. Ptilinopus wallacii has been recorded from the Mimika and Noord rivers (but may be an irregular nomad or possibly a vagrant: K. D. Bishop in litt. 1996), Charmosyna multistriata from the slopes of the Snow mountains east to Mt Bosavi, and Paradisaea apoda from Mimika river east to the Strickland river. The remaining species have patchy distributions: Pitohui incertus is currently known only from the Noord and upper Fly rivers, Cinclosoma ajax (in this EBA) from the upper Fly region including Palmer river to Mt Bosavi, and Poecilodryas placens from Mt Bosavi to the Purari River region.

Campbell's Fairywren Malurus (grayi) campbelli from Mt Bosavi and Kiunga is treated as a full species by Schodde and Weatherly (1983) and Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), but is considered by LeCroy and Diamond (1995) to be a subspecies and is not included here.

Species IUCN Red List category
Wallace's Fruit-dove (Ptilinopus wallacii) LC
Striated Lorikeet (Charmosyna multistriata) NT
Painted Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma ajax) LC
White-bellied Pitohui (Pseudorectes incertus) NT
Greater Bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea apoda) LC
Banded Yellow Robin (Gennaeodryas placens) LC

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
Country IBA Name IBA Book Code

Threat and conservation

Annual observations made during flights over this region since 1985 indicate that there appears to be very little overall change to the status of the forests. Large areas are inaccessible and pristine. However, mining (for copper and gold) and associated logging is a local threat to the wildlife around Tabubil (the mine’s township), and logging and road-building are increasing around Kiunga. This permits access to a vast area of forest that would otherwise have been sparsely populated and virtually untouched. Similar mining and logging operations are active in the Snow and Star mountains (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1996).

The mining activities of Porgera Joint Venture Ltd and (particularly) Ok Tedi Mining Ltd at Tabubil, have been the focus of significant national and international attention. In some places silt from the mine workings has spread from the riverbanks killing all vegetation. However, an appraisal of the long-term implications of development activities within the whole catchment draws attention to the perhaps more serious threat to biodiversity from large-scale commercial logging operations. Pressure for this will continue to grow as forestry offers an important alternative source of income beyond the life of the mines, which is planned to finish in c.2010 (IUCN 1995).

Although none of the restricted-range species has been identified as threatened, there are other widespread threatened birds which occur in this region: Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius, Southern Crowned-pigeon Goura scheepmakeri, New Guinea Harpy Eagle Harpyopsis novaeguineae and Pesquet's Parrot Psittrichas fulgidus (all classified as Vulnerable). Despite laws prohibiting the possession of firearms in the Tabubil area, the evidence that they are still in use is apparent in the number of large birds (including some of these threatened species) and mammals that have been shot and are on sale in local markets (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1996).

There is one protected area in the south-west which has lowland alluvial and hill rain forest within its boundaries-Gunung Lorentz Nature Reserve, which extends from sea-level into the Central Papuan ranges (EBA 178) and includes the Mimika-Otakwa water catchment. There are recent proposals to upgrade the area to a national park and World Heritage Site (WWF/IUCN 1994-1995). This is probably the single most important reserve in New Guinea.

The old-growth wet rain forests in the upper Fly lowlands, the Mt Bosavi/Aramia watershed, the Kikori Karst/Lake Kutubu area and the Purari basin have all been identified by Beehler (1993) as important areas for terrestrial biodiversity in Papua New Guinea.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: South Papuan lowlands. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/188 on 07/12/2023.