Papua New Guinea facts for kids

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Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Independen Stet bilong Papua Niugini
Flag of Papua New Guinea
Flag
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Emblem
Motto: "Unity in diversity"
Anthem: O Arise, All You Sons 
Location of Papua New Guinea
Capital
and largest city
Port Moresby
Official languages
Demonym(s) Papua New Guinean
Government Unitary parliamentary democracy under constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
Elizabeth II
• Governor General
Michael Ogio
• Prime Minister
Peter O'Neill
Legislature National Parliament
Independence
• from Australia
16 September 1975
Area
• Total
462,840 km2 (178,700 sq mi) (56th)
• Water (%)
2
Population
• 2011 Census preliminary results estimate
7,059,653 (102nd)
• 2000 census
5,190,783
• Density
15/km2 (38.8/sq mi) (201st)
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
• Total
$16.863 billion
• Per capita
$2,532
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
• Total
$12.655 billion
• Per capita
$1,900
Gini (1996) 50.9
high
HDI (2011) Increase 0.466
low · 153rd
Currency Papua New Guinean kina (PGK)
Time zone UTC+10 (AEST)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+10 (not observed)
(as of 2005)
Driving side left
Calling code +675
ISO 3166 code PG
Internet TLD .pg

Papua New Guinea (PNG; Tok Pisin: Papua Niugini), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands (the western portion of the island is a part of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua). It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, in a region defined since the early 19th century as Melanesia. The capital is Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth. According to recent data, 841 different languages are listed for the country, although 11 of these have no known living speakers. . (A detailed series of language maps of Papua New Guinea may be found at Ethnologue) There may be at least as many traditional societies,out of a population of about 6.2 million. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18% of its people live in urban centres. The country is one of the world's least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea.

The majority of the population live in traditional societies and practise subsistence-based agriculture. These societies and clans have some explicit acknowledgement within the nation's constitutional framework. The PNG Constitution (Preamble 5(4)) expresses the wish for "traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society", and for active steps to be taken in their preservation.

After being ruled by three external powers since 1884, Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975. It remains a Commonwealth realm of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Papua New Guinea. Many people live in extreme poverty, with about one third of the population living on less than US$1.25 per day.

Geography

Papua New Guinea map
Map of Papua New Guinea

At 462,840 km2 (178,704 sq mi), Papua New Guinea is the world's fifty-fourth largest country. Including all its islands, it lies between latitudes and 12°S, and longitudes 140° and 160°E.

The country's geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A spine of mountains, the New Guinea Highlands, runs the length of the island of New Guinea, forming a populous highlands region mostly covered with tropical rainforest. Dense rainforests can be found in the lowland and coastal areas as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop transportation infrastructure. In some areas, airplanes are the only mode of transport. The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509 metres (14,793 ft). Papua New Guinea is surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch, in the interests of preservation.

The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active volcanoes, and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis.

The mainland of the country is the eastern half of New Guinea island, where the largest towns are also located, including the capital Port Moresby and Lae; other major islands within Papua New Guinea include New Ireland, New Britain, Manus and Bougainville.

Papua New Guinea is one of the few regions close to the equator that experiences snowfall, which occurs in the most elevated parts of the mainland.

Ecology

Baby tree kangaroo on the chiefs wifes shoulder -Papua New Guinea-17Oct2008
A Tree-kangaroo in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is part of the Australasia ecozone, which also includes Australia, New Zealand, eastern Indonesia, and several Pacific island groups, including the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Geologically, the island of New Guinea is a northern extension of the Indo-Australian tectonic plate, forming part of a single landmass Australia-New Guinea (also called Sahul or Meganesia). It is connected to the Australian segment by a shallow continental shelf across the Torres Strait, which in former ages had lain exposed as a land bridge, particularly during ice ages when sea levels were lower than at present.

Tarvurvur
Mount Tavurvur in Papua New Guinea.

Consequently, many species of birds and mammals found on New Guinea have close genetic links with corresponding species found in Australia. One notable feature in common for the two landmasses is the existence of several species of marsupial mammals, including some kangaroos and possums, which are not found elsewhere.

Many of the other islands within PNG territory, including New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, the Admiralty Islands, the Trobriand Islands, and the Louisiade Archipelago, were never linked to New Guinea by land bridges. As a consequence, they have their own flora and fauna; in particular, they lack many of the land mammals and flightless birds that are common to New Guinea and Australia.

Australia and New Guinea are portions of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which started to break into smaller continents in the Cretaceous era, 65-130 million years ago. Australia finally broke free from Antarctica about 45 million years ago. All the Australasian lands are home to the Antarctic flora, descended from the flora of southern Gondwana, including the coniferous podocarps and Araucaria pines, and the broadleafed southern beech (Nothofagus). These plant families are still present in Papua New Guinea.

As the Indo-Australian Plate (which includes landmasses of India, Australia, and the Indian Ocean floor in between) drifts north, it collides with the Eurasian Plate. The collision of the two plates pushed up the Himalayas, the Indonesian islands, and New Guinea's Central Range. The Central Range is much younger and higher than the mountains of Australia, so high that it is home to rare equatorial glaciers. New Guinea is part of the humid tropics, and many Indomalayan rainforest plants spread across the narrow straits from Asia, mixing together with the old Australian and Antarctic floras.

PNG-climate
The green jungle of Papua New Guinea bears a sharp contrast to the nearby desert of Australia.

PNG includes a number of terrestrial ecoregions:

  • Admiralty Islands lowland rain forests – forested islands to the north of the mainland, home to a distinct flora.
  • Central Range montane rain forests
  • Huon Peninsula montane rain forests
  • Louisiade Archipelago rain forests
  • New Britain-New Ireland lowland rain forests
  • New Britain-New Ireland montane rain forests
  • New Guinea mangroves
  • Northern New Guinea lowland rain and freshwater swamp forests
  • Northern New Guinea montane rain forests
  • Solomon Islands rain forests (includes Bougainville Island and Buka)
  • Southeastern Papuan rain forests
  • Southern New Guinea freshwater swamp forests
  • Southern New Guinea lowland rain forests
  • Trobriand Islands rain forests
  • Trans Fly savanna and grasslands
  • Central Range sub-alpine grasslands

At current rates of deforestation, more than half of the country's forests could be lost or seriously degraded by 2021, according to a new satellite study of the region. Nearly one quarter of Papua New Guinea's rainforests were damaged or destroyed between 1972 and 2002.

Economy

OkTediMine
The Ok Tedi Mine in southwestern Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea Export Treemap
Graphical depiction of Papua New Guinea's product exports in 28 color coded categories.

Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with natural resources, but access has been hampered by rugged terrain, the high cost of developing infrastructure, serious law and order problems, and the system of land title which makes identifying the owners of land for the purpose of negotiating appropriate agreements problematic. Agriculture provides a livelihood for 85% of the population. Mineral deposits, including oil, copper, and gold, account for 72% of export earnings. The country also has a notable coffee industry and other crops include cocoa, oil palm and tea.

Demographics

Huli wigman
Huli Wigman from the Southern Highlands

Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous nations in the world. There are hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the majority being from the group known as Papuans, whose ancestors arrived in the New Guinea region tens of thousands of years ago. Many remote Papuan tribes still have only marginal contact with the outside world.

The others are Austronesians, their ancestors having arrived in the region less than four thousand years ago. There are also numerous people from other parts of the world now resident, including Chinese, Europeans, Australians, Filipinos, Polynesians and Micronesians. At the brink of Papuan independence in 1975, there were 40,000 expatriates (mostly Australian and Chinese) in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea has more languages than any other country, with over 820 indigenous languages, representing twelve percent of the world's total, but most have fewer than 1,000 speakers. The most widely-spoken indigenous language is Enga with about 200,000 speakers, followed by Melpa and Huli. Indigenous languages are classified into two large groups: Austronesian languages and non-Austronesian (or Papuan languages). There are three official languages for Papua New Guinea. English is an official language and is the language of government and the education system, but it is not widely spoken.

The primary lingua franca of the country is Tok Pisin (commonly known in English as New Guinea Pidgin or Melanesian Pidgin), in which much of the debate in Parliament is conducted, many information campaigns and advertisements are presented, and until recently a national newspaper, Wantok, was published. The only area where Tok Pisin is not prevalent is the southern region of Papua, where people often use the third official language, Hiri Motu.

Although it lies in the Papua region, Port Moresby has a highly diverse population which primarily uses Tok Pisin, and to a lesser extent English, with Motu spoken as the indigenous language in outlying villages. With an average of only 7,000 speakers per language, Papua New Guinea has a greater density of languages than any other nation on earth except Vanuatu.

Culture

PNG Rattle QM-r
This rattle is made of leaves, seeds and coconut shell. The rattle is tied around a dancer’s ankle and makes a sound when the dancer moves.
PNG Bilum Bag QM r
This bilum bag is from Goroka, in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinean
Resident of Bago-Bago, an island in the southeast of Papua New Guinea
Abelam wooden ancestor figure 2 CAC
20th century wooden Abelam ancestor figure (nggwalndu).

It is estimated that more than a thousand different cultural groups exist in Papua New Guinea. Because of this diversity, many different styles of cultural expression have emerged; each group has created its own expressive forms in art, dance, weaponry, costumes, singing, music, architecture and much more. Most of these different cultural groups have their own language. People typically live in villages that rely on subsistence farming. In some areas people hunt and collect wild plants (such as yam roots) to supplement their diets. Those who become skilled at hunting, farming and fishing earn a great deal of respect.

On the Sepik river, there is a tradition of wood carving, often in the form of plants or animals, representing ancestor spirits.

Sea shells are no longer the currency of Papua New Guinea, as they were in some regions – sea shells were abolished as currency in 1933. However, this heritage is still present in local customs; in some cultures, to get a bride, a groom must bring a certain number of golden-edged clam shells as a bride price. In other regions, the bride price is paid in lengths of shell money, pigs, cassowaries or cash. Elsewhere, it is brides who traditionally pay a dowry.

People of the highlands engage in colourful local rituals that are called "sing sings". They paint themselves and dress up with feathers, pearls and animal skins to represent birds, trees or mountain spirits. Sometimes an important event, such as a legendary battle, is enacted at such a musical festival.

Images for kids


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