papua new


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After mating, the female cassowary will lay three to six large, green eggs.  Once these eggs are laid, the female’s job is done, and she will wander off to find another male to mate with.  It is the father who constructs a nest of waterproof vegetation and incubates the eggs for the next fifty days.  A devoted parent, the male will not leave his eggs until they have hatched.  A broody male cassowary does not need to eat, drink, or even defecate for the entire period of incubation.

Cassowary chicks are small, beige in colour, with dark brown stripes.  The father will protect his new family with devotion, showing them what foods to eat and ferociously protecting them from predators.  The chicks will stay with their father for the next nine months.

It has also been noted in zoos that cassowary chicks will imprint readily on anyone who is present when they hatch, including humans.  These chicks are then extremely tame and will follow their adopted parent anywhere.  In some native villages in New Guinea, cassowary chicks are even kept as pets and left to wander loose through the village, like chickens.  However, even the tamest chick will turn savage and dangerous upon reaching adulthood.  


While cassowaries have been known to eat fungi, flowers, snails, insects, frogs, birds, rats, mice, and even carrion, their diet consists primarily of fruit.  They will eat the fruit of several hundred species of tree and bush, and one tree, the cassowary plum (which is toxic to other species but eaten readily by the cassowary), has even been named for the birds.  Cassowaries can become extremely aggressive about their food; when they find a tree that is dropping fruit, they will stay there and eat, chasing away any other cassowaries who try to approach and feed, until the fruit is gone.

Cassowaries will swallow fruits whole, even large ones like apples and plums.  Because of this, seeds and pits will go through the cassowary’s digestive system and be passed in their droppings.  These birds have been known to distribute seeds over distances of over a kilometre, making them hugely important in the dispersal and germination of fruit trees through the rainforests.  Some seeds, such as those of the Ryparosa trees, are shown to have much greater germination rates when they have been through the gut of a cassowary.  These makes these birds a keystone species for the rainforests they inhabit.


My next assignment on Moana was to help develop some characters for the Underworld, Lalotai.  In earlier versions of the story, it was inhabited by a colorful mix of spirits, creatures, and adversaries that Maui had cursed and banished there.  These didn’t end up in the final film but it was fun to play around with ideas of what they could be!  In the research I was inspired by the traditional headdresses, masks, and costumes from cultures like Papua New Guinea.  There’s such a deep well of beautiful, adventurous design to draw from! 

Copyright Walt Disney Animation Studios


There are three species of cassowary.  The southern cassowary, or double-wattled cassowary (top image), is the most common, and is the third largest bird in the world after the ostrich and emu.  The northern cassowary, or single-wattled cassowary, or golden-necked cassowary (second image), lives in the lowlands and swamps of New Guinea.  The dwarf cassowary, or mountain cassowary (third image), is the smallest of the three species, and lives in the mountain forests of New Guinea.  

Wewak,Papua New Guinea, locals judge surf rides with loud cheers and raised machetes. - photography: Ryan Craig - text: Kimball Taylor - Surfer December 2016

“In 2010, Samaritan Aviation, a nonprofit organization based out of Montrose, Colorado, brought the very first floatplane to a country dominated by water. And for the last six years this Cessna, piloted mostly by Mark Palm, has served as the only efficient link between life-threatening events and medical treatments. Palm a surfer from Santa Cruz, California, said he didn’t come here for the waves. That he discovered a variety of reefs and beaches was a lucky strike he attributes to God looking after him. Because the reason he says he came, to serve others, can get pretty grim.”

Paedophryne amauensis

Paedophryne amauensis is a species of frog from Papua New Guinea discovered in August 2009 and formally described in January 2012. At 7.7 mm  in length, it is considered the world’s smallest known vertebrate. P. amauensis, attaining an average body size of only 7.7 mm. The frog lives on land and its life cycle does not include a tadpole stage. Instead, members of this species hatch as ‘hoppers’: miniatures of the adults. The skeleton is reduced and there are only seven presacral vertebrae present. They are capable of jumping thirty times their body length. The frog is crepuscular and feeds on small invertebrates.

photo credits: wiki

Kalam Tribe - Papua New Guinea 

The Kalam people create elaborate head-dresses using feathers from birds such as cockatoos, parrots, lorikeets and bird of paradise. They live in remote areas high in the mountains of New Guinea, their villages only accessible by prop plane. There are no roads in or out.