These mammoths of the sea were once common in winter off the south east coast of Papua New Guinea and around the Long Island area between the mainland and New Britain. I personally recall sailing through hundreds of them as recently as 1968. Now there are none, so it seems. Perhaps they have gone 'underground'. But I doubt it.
Regrettably the sight of a mighty whale lazing on the surface with its calf alongside, or of a number of whales travelling in convoy, is a thing of the past. The remarkably recent past. So recent that the mind boggles at what might happen in the next ten years.
However, on the assumption that whales survive in Papua New Guinea the visiting boatman is advised that he is most likely to encounter one or two close to Long Island and that in the name of safety he should not approach too close. There can be little doubt that whales have caused the loss of small boats.
These wonderfully playful and intelligent mammals continue to survive the ravages of man and will be seen in all waters around the country.
These are not as common in Papua New Guinea as the visitor might believe. They will be seen, but not as often as along Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Because of this there is very little point in asking the visitor not to hunt a turtle. He will be battling to find one.
These ancient reptiles came close to extinction when the law prohibiting their taking for skins and as stuffed tourist trophies was eased. The Fly River, for example, very quickly became unprofitable for even the most experienced of hunters and the Sepik River managed to support only a limited number.
Today the Sepik River is the best known place for crocodiles. They are hunted for their skins by the villagers whose lives are occasionally forfeited in exchange.
The crocodiles of Papua New Guinea were known for their occasional sorties offshore to nearby coral reefs and, indeed, some hunters actually plied their trade on the fringing reefs. But this has passed into history now. It is reasonably safe to say that the visitor need only exercise caution when inside a mangrove fringed creek or river.
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