New Guinea. The very name conjures images of a wild, unknown land; one of the last true wildernesses on our planet. This is a tropical realm of the beautiful and the bizarre, where giant birds roam the forest floor and kangaroos climb trees. It is home to remote tribes, stunning mountain ranges, deadly volcanoes and spectacular coral reefs. New Guinea is a magnificent tropical island, born of violent destruction, where evolution unfolds before our very eyes.
New Guinea’s story began 25 million years ago, as Australia lurched north into the tropics. The New Guinea we see today is only around 5 million years old. It is the largest tropical island on Earth, as well as the tallest. Its location, position in the tropics and extreme topography all set the scene for a stunning wilderness, filled with an extraordinary assemblage of life.
As part of the Australian continental shelf, many of New Guinea’s species originated in Australia. These include the giant, flightless cassowary and bizarre, egg laying echidna. Kangaroos are true Australian icons; however, in New Guinea, kangaroos live in the treetops. Due to the rich supply of leaves in the tropical forests and lack of competition, tree kangaroos have taken to an arboreal lifestyle. They are an extraordinary example of evolution in action.
So too are New Guinea’s most famous residents, the beautiful birds of paradise. The 39 different species all descended from a crow-like ancestor. New Guinea’s violent birth is one reason for such a profusion of plumes. The steep mountains and valleys have isolated species from each other, allowing so many to evolve. And it is not just on land that the tectonic collision has created such diversity. New Guinea lies between two massive bodies of water, the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Huge numbers of corals, fish larvae and nutrients are carried here. The results are the richest reefs on Earth, with more species found on a single reef than in the entire Caribbean.
The violent carnage that gave birth to New Guinea is evident in the sheer diversity of species found. And that carnage continues to this day. On many islands surrounding New Guinea, volcanoes are stark evidence of the destruction caused by Australia’s move north. Even here, species take advantage of the ever-changing landscape, such as megapodes, that bury their eggs in the ash of active volcanoes.
New Guinea is the last great unknown. This film will reveal it in all its weird and wonderful beauty. From the world’s smallest frog to arboreal monitor lizards, to tree climbing kangaroos and the spectacular birds of paradise – New Guinea is the most extraordinary island on our planet, as well as one of its last truly wild places.
Written and directed by Matt Hamilton
Executive producers: Sabine Holzer, Walter Köhler
1 x 50 min., 4K,
5.1 + Stereo