New Guinea Highlands

The New Guinea Highlands, also known as the Central Range or Central Cordillera, are a chain of mountain ranges and intermountain river valleys, many of which support thriving agricultural communities, on the large island of New Guinea, which lies to the north of Australia. The highlands run generally east-west the length of the island, which is divided politically between Indonesia in the west and Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the east.

Although some valleys such as the Wahgi Valley in the Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea are heavily cultivated and support urban settlements, most of the mountains have traditional tribal village communities in the grassy mountain valleys. The PNG Highland provinces are: Eastern Highlands Province, the most heavily-populated area of PNG; Simbu Province (or Chimbu), whose center is the small coffee-growing town of Kundiawa on the Waghi River near Mount Wilhelm; the Western Highlands; the rugged Enga Province, the home of the Enga people with its administration in the very small town of Wabag on the Lai River, and containing the large Porgera Gold Mine; and Southern Highlands Province, with its center in the small town and airport of Mendi, and containing the Huli wigmen area around the town of Tari. The Highlands Highway connects many of these towns. Larger urban areas in the PNG Highlands include the Western Highlands capital and PNG's third largest city Mount Hagen (near the extinct Mount Hagen volcano), the Eastern Highlands capital and former colonial town of Goroka, and the mining town of Tabubil. The climate is humid as you would expect of the tropical rainforested island of New Guinea, but the higher mountain slopes are of course cooler than the lowlands.

The fertile Highlands have long been inhabited but were not settled by the Western powers during the early colonial period. Indeed they were first visited by western zoologists and explorers, such as Mick Leahy, who opened the Waghi Valley and Mount Hagen, and Richard Archbold in the 1930s.

The New Guinea Highlands are home to a great variety of Australasian plant and animal communities, distinct from the surrounding lowlands to the north and south of the central ranges and varying up and along the mountain ranges. The habitats of the mountains have been separated into two ecoregions, depending on their elevation, the tropical montane forests and alpine grasslands, but within these broad bands there is a variety of wildlife along the island as some of the mountains stand quite a distance from others with some species existing of plant or animal existing on only one or two mountains. Particular centres of plant diversity are: the Star Mountains area of western Papua New Guinea near the Indonesian border including Telefomin and Strickland Gorge; the Hunstein Range; Mount Giluwe, a major birdwatching area for Birds of Paradise; the volcanic limestone Kubor Range; the Bismarck Range/Mount Wilhelm/Schrader Range/Mount Gahavisuka, of which Mount Wilhelm is particularly rich in endemic species; and finally the Crater Mountain and Mount Michael in the Eastern Highlands.

Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Guinea_Highlands

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