|Location||Paniai Regency, West Papua, Indonesia|
|Surface area||154 km2 (59 sq mi)|
|Max. depth||44 m (144 ft)|
|Surface elevation||1,752 m (5,748 ft)|
The Paniai Lakes, originally known as the Wissel Lakes, are the three large, freshwater lakes Paniai, Tigi, and Tage. They are located in the Paniai Regency in the central highlands of West Papua province, Indonesia. The largest of the three is Lake Paniai (Danau Paniai), while its immediate neighbor Lake Tage is the smallest.
Despite their considerable size (Lake Paniai alone is larger than Lake Como), they were not known outside New Guinea until 1937. On 31 December 1936, the Dutch navy pilot Frits Julius Wissel, just weeks after first-ascending the highest mountain of New Guinea, and his crew flew over the lakes while making an aerial survey for the Dutch New Guinea oil company. He took photos and noticed many people in canoes, establishing that this mountainous region was populated. During a follow-up flight by E.L.J. Haak on 15 February 1937, it was established that there were many settlements around the lakes, indicating a thriving agricultural society. In November of that year, the Dutch Indies government named the group of lakes after Wissel. A small Dutch outpost was established here in 1938, but contact was cut off during the Second World War.
The region of the Paniai Lakes, consisting of a depression between the Weyland and Sudirman ranges, is heavily populated. The indigenous peoples of this area are the Ekagi, also called the Me. Around the year 2000, as part of the Papua conflict ongoing since 1963, the surrounding forests were burned down by the military so that they could not harbor separatists. This resulted in increased sedimentation of Lake Paniai, and in 2011 the lake overflowed, flooding the surrounding area with up to 4 meters of water.
There are few fish in the lakes, but the Paniai gudgeon (Oxyeleotris wisselensis) is endemic to the lake system. The common carp (Cyprinus carpio), Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Mozambique tilapia (O. mossambicus) are non-natives that have been introduced by humans.
In contrast to the low fish diversity, there is a very high diversity of Parastacid crayfish of the genus Cherax. Of the eight species known from the lake system, two (C. longipes and C. solus) are endemic Lake Tigi, five (C. boschmai, C. buitendijkae, C. murido, C. pallidus and C. paniaicus) are endemic to Lake Paniai, and a single species (C. communis) is found both in the lakes and the surrounding area.
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