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PIA Press Release
2009/03/29

Feature: Papua New Guinea a paradise too

Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan (29 March) -- Papua New Guinea, the homeland of visiting Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, has more languages than any other country on earth, with over 820 indigenous languages that represent twelve percent of the world’s total.

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 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, the nation’s capital, 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.

It is also one of the most heterogeneous nations in the world.

In Papua New Guinea (population: 6.3 million) 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. 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 462,840 km (178,704 sq mi), Papua New Guinea is the world's fifty-fourth largest country (after Cameroon). It is comparable in size to Sweden, and somewhat larger than the US state of California.

Papua New Guinea is mostly mountainous (highest peak: Mt. Wilhelm at 4,509 m; 14,793 ft) and mostly covered with tropical rainforest, as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. Papua New Guinea is surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch to preserve them.

The country is also 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.

Long sought-after by scientists, a team associated with Conservation International (CI) announced they have discovered new wildlife species - - all thought to be new to science – in one of the largest hinterlands of the country.

After a month-long exploration of Papua New Guinea’s central mountains, scientists discovered a tiny chirping frog, a stripe gecko and dozens of species of jumping spiders, as well as documented more than 600 species of flora and fauna. (PIA 6) [top]

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