2 New Crab Species Discovered in PT Freeport Indonesia’s Operation Area in Mimika Regency

17 October 2020

Papua has once again demonstrated its amazing biodiversity with the discovery of two new crab species, named Typhlocarcinops robustus and Typhlocarcinops raouli, in the Ajkwa River estuary situated in the PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) operation area in  Mimika Regency.

This discovery increases the long list of new species found  in the PTFI operation area stretching from the coast to the alpine forest located at an elevation of 4,000 meters above sea level, to 29 flora and 101 fauna, comprising 50 species of insects, 2 mammalian species, 26 reptilian species, 2 fish genera, 21 crab genera, and other animal genera. 

The two new subphylum crustacean species were discovered during a routine monitoring session conducted jointly by PTFI and Indonesian Institute of Sciences LIPI. A team of researchers came upon the two species indicating unique physical characteristics, and proceeded to study them further. Following almost 4 years of studies, the two species were pronounced to be new.  

The primary uniqueness of these two species lay in the shapes of their bodies and claws.  Typhlocarcinops Robustus has a sturdier body and claws, thus the name  Robustus. Meanwhile Typhlocarcinops Raouli has a longer, more rectangular body shape  with slim claws and fine hair. Its name was given in honor of  Raoul Serène, a French crab specialist on these genera. 

LIPI oceanographer Professor Dwi Listyo Rahayu who is involved in the research says environmental monitoring is conducted to obtain basic information on biodiversity in the PTFI operation area.  

“Rivers in Mimika and the biodiversity they hold form an incredibly rich ecosystem, primarily due to their providing a habitat for numerous species such as crabs. PTFI collaboration with LIPI is vital to maximize research and monitoring,” Professor Dwi, the only hermit crab taxonomist in Indonesia, stated in a press release from the Environmental Department that Salam Papua received on Tuesday (20/20/2020).

Research conducted by PTFI since 2001 in estuary and mangrove areas has resulted in the discovery of at least 103 subphylum crustacean species, 21 of which are new to the scientific community.  PTFI routinely conducts monitoring and research in the Ajkwa River estuary once every six months, as part of compliance with its 1997 AMDAL 300K. Environmental conservation activities are not restricted to the estuary area, but are also performed across PTFI’s entire operation area, from the highlands to the lowlands.  

“Results of analysis on each environmental research activity we conduct, including basic information on biodiversity in the PTFI operation area are consistently  taken into account by PTFI management in their operational decision making, and this allows us to minimize impacts from our operation on the environment. We also regularly submit our research reports to the government,” PTFI Environmental Senior Manager Gesang Setyadi said. Environmental conservation in the Ajkwa River estuary is crucial, bearing in mind the area is impacted by PTFI’s tailings stream. 

After doing the research for many years, it is known that the new land formed in the estuary as a form of sedimentation contributes in making mangrove forest colonization naturally which is habitat for many types of marine animals such as crab, shrimp, snail, shellfish, fish and sea worm.

The research result shows that all of these species could live well and form new ecosystems. The discovery also shows that the estuary downstream of the tailings deposition area is a functioning ecosystem. Apart from natural colonization, the ecosystem at the mouth of the Ajkwa River was also formed through reclamation activities carried out by PTFI. Since 2013, PTFI continues to reclaim the Ajkwa River estuary by planting mangroves on an area of approximately 300 hectares.

Apart from being carried out with LIPI, PTFI also conducted monitoring and research on the estuary area involving various parties, such as the Mimika Regency Government, Diponegoro University, and the Bogor Agricultural Institute. A number of books related to this species discovery from the research result have been published and add to the literature on biodiversity in Papua.

"The collaborations that PTFI continues to do with various parties, such as the government and academic institutions at domestic and abroad, are able to support the activities that we carry out to be more optimally beneficial for environmental preservation and the advancement of the world of research," concluded by Gesang.

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