Census Takers Note New Papua Tribe

Census Takers Note New Papua Tribe
, 23 June 2010


Jayapura, Papua. The national census continues to reveal surprises, as the Papua Statistics Agency said on Wednesday that it had uncovered a tribe previously known only to missionaries, as well as several people claiming to be centenarians.

“We have found thousands of tribal people based on information from evangelists. When we investigated, the information was true. There are 2,868 tribal people,” said Suntono, the head of the agency, known as BPS Papua.

He said the tribe lived in the forested mountains bordered by the districts of Mappi, Yahukimo, Asmat and Boven Digoel.

“They live in trees and their bodies are not covered,” he said.

They cannot speak Indonesian, he added. When the BPS officials conducted the census, the missionaries served as translators by way of crude sign language.

The tribe survived by hunting in the forest, Suntono said.

“They consume leaves and the meat of wild animals from the forest. They also eat stones,” he said.

“We are going to dig up more information from different parties to determine if there are any other tribal people.”

There are more than 290 tribal groups in Papua, each with its own language.

Officials have also said that census takers have found as many as 22 people in four districts who claimed to be between 124 and 130 years old.

“They are in Merauke, with eight people, Nabire, 10 people, Yapen, two people, and Keerom with two people,” Suntono said.

The oldest person was in Me­rauke and claims to be 130 years old, while the youngest, 124 years old, lives in Keerom. Suntono said his officials were investigating to verify the ages.

To do so, they will check whether they have four generations of descendants. If so, Suntono said, the age claims will be accepted.

Previously, census takers found a woman in Riau province who claimed to be 145 years old.

The national census, which is done every 10 years, began in May and was supposed to last one month but has been extended until the end of this month.

The official results are expected to be released in August.