Cannibals, Crocodiles and Cassowaries: A New Zealand Forest Ranger in the Jungles of Papua New Guinea

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It is 1967 in Papua New Guinea.Despite never having left New Zealand before, Ross takes to living and working in the jungle like he was born there, right down to learning Pidgin and eating bush meat from questionable sources.From hair-raising experiments with stump-blasting to being caught in the arrow-fire of a tribal battle, Ross’s life is never dull. He has a tug-of-war with a reef shark over his dinner catch, witnesses (and photographs) a young men’s initiation ritual that few non-natives have ever seen, visits cannibals and head-hunters in their isolated villages, gets caught in storms at sea in an open boat, climbs to ancient rock-paintings and burial caves, experiences the mysterious power of native superstition, races against time to get death adder victims to hospital, witnesses more post-mortems than he cares to remember, gets arrested in PNG’s Eastern Highlands for photographing a chain gang at work (and talks his way free with photos intact), goes crocodile hunting with a barking dog for bait, seeks out the isolated tribe that suffers from the “laughing death” (kuru), encounters fascinating customs among isolated tribes, and collects the artefacts that formed the backbone of the National Museum of New Zealand’s PNG collection at that time.Nothing stops him.When he encounters jungle bridges that have lost their decks, he drives his Holden across the stringers! When asked by the NZ National Museum’s Curator of Pacific Ethnology to procure or photograph a rare fertility figure that no-one in PNG is even prepared to talk about, Ross makes a secretive deal with a witchdoctor that results in him smuggling one out of a remote village wrapped in his spare shirt.


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