logo banner honai/home page


KAMORO ECOLOGY - CHAPTER I.

© Kal Muller, 2004. (Bahasa Indonesia)


01. The flat alluvial plain between New Guinea's central cordillera and the Arafura Sea spreads to form a mangrove swamp just before reaching the marine eco-system. Inland, it's the tropical rain forest which offers complementary natural resources to the Kamoro.

01a. Sprawling transmigration sites represent the greatest threat to the Kamoro life-style and the ecosystems of the Timika region. Little thought has been given to the traditional land rights of the Kamoro when settlers were brought in from Java.

02. The bark of the tree Cryptocarya massoy contains a volatile oil comparable to cinnamon. An age-old trade item, it is still gathered in the westernmost part of Kamoroland. Its' main use is in Java where massoy is an essential ingredient in some herbal medicines with many uses, including preventing cramps during pregnancy. Ground massoy is used in some curries and as a dye fixative in Javanese batiks.

02a. Papuan transmigrants from the highlands are more aggressive than the Kamoro and have settled in the lowlands in large numbers in search of work and a better life. Some are living in official transmigration settlements, others wherever they find room.

03. A family returns to Atuka Village after a day of foraging in the mangroves. They brought back firewood, wild berries, crabs for sale and tambelo mollusks for home consumption. Frequent foraging in the nearby mangroves alternates with trips lasting several days to a week or more to the sago areas further upstream.

03a. The Papuan highlanders are farmers by avocation and an age-old tradition, unlike the Kamoro. The transmigrants from the highlands to the Timika area need land over which the Kamoro have traditional ownership.

04. Most of the travel to the daily forage sites takes place by paddled canoe. But there are also opportunities for rides in a roomy, outboard-powered dugout, making for a pleasant social gathering on the way to the mangroves. Each village now has outboard motors but the high price and difficulty of obtaining fuel limits their use.

05. Logs piled up to be shipped out of Kamoro-land. Logging companies pay no royalties to the Kamoro. Many of the tree species used for canoes are the same as those highly prized by the timber business. Traditional land rights need to be defined and protected by the government.

06. Under outside encouragement, some Kamoro are slowly taking up agriculture. Hunting, fishing and gathering are their preferred ocupations. In Atuka, thanks to the efforts of a long-time resident Javanese schoolteacher, gardening has become relatively successful. Nutrient-deficient sand mounds are fertilized by an underlying layer of twigs and leaves of the Crotalaria striata, as well as the leaves of the beach hibiscus, Hibiscus tiliaceous.

07. Butterflies abound in Kamoro-land but have not been studied or catalogued well. These pretty insects can be highly informative in assessing the biological diverstiy of an area. The species include the most common of birdwings, Troides (Ornithoptera) priamus. The birdwings of New Guinea, all of the genus Troides, are eight in total, with six occurring or expected in the Freeport project area.

08. Crocodiles of two species are found in the Timika area: the freshwater and the estuarine/salt water. Since commercial hunting these animals was forbidden in the 1980s, the estuarine crocodiles have made a come-back, but there are still very few big ones. The inland, freshwater crocodile could represent a new species, different from the one found in the north of New Guinea.

09. Two huge cassowary eggs and some grilled fish will make an excellent meal for a large Kamoro family, when filled out with sago. With a sago base and usually fish protein, the Kamoro diet is quite varied, with many natural products gathered or hunted oportunistically.

10. Kamoro housewife grills fish and boils a cassowary egg. With a sago base and fish for protein, there are many other items added to vary the diet, with natural products hunted or gathered oportunistically.

11. Temporary fishing camps are set up on beaches near estuaries to take advantage of excellent catches. The Kamoro rarely venture far out to sea. Large animals such as turtles, sharks and big fish are harpooned, others caught with nets. Hook-and-line fishing is rare.

12. A large canoe returns to its home village at dusk, after a day of fishing and gathering. Several adults and children often spend the whole day foraging the mangroves for mollusks, crustacea, wild fruit and edible leaves.




  © Copyright UNIPA - ANU - UNCEN PapuaWeb Project, 2004.

honai/home page