In search of the Fakfak limestone orchids, Papua Barat

Sorong, 19 April 2022. – At the beginning of 2022, Reza Saputra explored the orchids in the most threatened limestone mountain in Papua Barat Province, i.e., Fakfak Mts. The rapid development of the regency led to limestone extraction from this mountain. They extract limestone used for raw materials for construction ten years ago. The quarries have already brought a large portion of the existing rock, leading to erosions that exacerbate the situation.

Unfortunately, the mountains are an important habitat for plants since many limestone species are often endemic. Besides that, it is also a location with the lowers collection density for orchids in Indonesian New Guinea. No scientific exploration of orchids was done, except by orchid enthusiasts and individual researchers.

As an awardee from the Tony Whitten Conservation Awards 2021, Reza observed the orchid’s diversity and distribution in Fakfak Mts. His main aim is to prepare the distribution map and modeling. Besides that, an alpha taxonomic study will also be assessed. Reza also intended to speed up the conservation status assessment of orchids, with particular attention to Paphiopedilum papuanum.

Paphiopedilum papuanum is assigned as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. In Reza’s experience, it is very difficult to find wild plants. At present, there are only three areas mentioned as the native geographic distribution of the species, i.e., Arfak, Carstensz, and mountains in Southern Highland Province, PNG.

The ruthless illegal collecting and trading of this species is the main threat. This species has been traded into the international market, mainly for ornamental and the creation of hybrids. Deforestation, timber extraction, and habitat destructions also threaten the populations.

The population data in Fakfak Mts will be used to re-calculate the value of the extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO). Both will be very important in the further evaluation of conservation status. Along with the newly acquired data, the conservation status assessment will advance the management of the Fakfak Mts area by the Papua Barat Natural Resources and Conservation Agency.

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