When food is scarce, it sometimes comes creeping out of the bush to feast on the dead, laid on platforms in the trees.
The Mekeo region lies between 7°15′ and 8°45′S and 146°20′ and 146°45′E, 100 kilometers to the Northwest of the capital city Port Moresby. It consists of nearly 400 square kilometers of low-lying fluvial plain with varied grassland, forest, riverine, and swamp habitats. Villages are situated along the meandering tributaries of the Angabanga and Biaru rivers. There are two seasons: a "wet," during the Northwest monsoon from December until April; and a "dry," from May through November. Annual rainfall averages between 100 and 180 centimeters, and temperatures fluctuate Between 20°and 30°C.
Certain villages in the Mekeo district (the hilly back country behind Hall Sound in the Papuan Gulf) . . . namely Inafoka, Eboa, and Inuaboue . . . do not bury their dead, but expose them on platforms of boughs built in the jungle until only the skeleton remains. . . . The corpses are washed with cold water every morning until decomposition is complete, or until they vanish, for at Eboa a kind of enormous iguana, the Aou-Angi-Angi (the man-eater), comes out at night to devour the corpses . . . Both the existence and the ferocity of this creature have been widely discussed, some people disputing the probability of either. But today there is no longer any doubt about the reality of this giant iguana. One of our Brothers - a brave man and, moreover, armed with a gun - fled this monster when he caught sight of it in the jungle near Onghinfeke. A Father at Inaouaia was jibing at one of the local natives for being so afraid of the Aou-Angi-Angi. "Have you seen him yourself?" the Father asked. "Have I seen him?" the native replied. "I've seen him eating my wife!"
I first heard of a 'land crocodile' or 'tree alligator' many years ago. I have never seen one, and its existence was doubted. Ahuia-ova, a well-known native of Port Moresby, also told me that he had shot one of them, and seen two others. The one he shot had been fighting a pig which it tore in pieces. It was, he says, as big as a small crocodile. He cut it open, cut out the fat and made oil, which he sold for 4s. to Mr. Ballantine, a former treasurer. The realistic touch suggests that there is some foundation in the story. The other two which he saw were, he said, so big that he was afraid to shoot; in one case he hid behind a tree; in the other he ran away. Ahuia had a gruesome story to tell of a Gorohi native whose dog was seized by one of these 'alligators'. The Gorohi saved the dog, but was seized himself, carried up a tree, and torn to pieces. His head was found at the bottom of the tree.