Republic of PALAU (Beluu er a Belau). PALAU, sometimes spelt BELAU or PELEW, officially called the REPUBLIC OF PALAU, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean.
The name of the islands, in the PALAUN language, BELAU, likely derives from either the Palauan word for ‘village’ (BELUU) or from ‘indirect replies (AIBEBELAU), relating to a creation myth. The name PALAU entered, via the German PALAU. An archaic name for the islands, in English, was the PELEW Islands. It should not be confused with PALAU, which is an Indonesian word meaning “island”.
Palau was originally settled between the 3rd and the 2nd millennia BC, most likely from the Philippines or Indonesia. The modern population, judging from its language, may have come from the SUNDA ISLANDS.
Palau’s marine environment exhibits a rich fauna, balanced by an abundant terrestrial flora. The richness derives from Palau’s close proximity to Indonesia, New Guinea and the Philippines. Palau has more species of marine life than any other area of similar size in the world. Corals, clams, sea-urchins, sea-anemones, sea-cucumbers, starfish, squid and jelly fish exist in profusion and variety. Such marine life has made Palau one of the world’s premier scuba-diving location. Common flora are the morning glory, Polynesian ironwood tree, pandanus and various species of palm and fern. The birds of Palau are abundant and colourful and many migrate to or through Palau twice a year. A few species of reptiles and amphibians live in Palau, including a UNKIQUE FROG that gives birth to “live young”. Insects are also abundant. The accidently introduced coconut rhinoceros beetle can do enormous damage to coconut palms, but various biological methods are used to control its spread.
Saltwater crocodiles are also indigenous to Palau and occur in varying numbers throughout the mangroves. Although the species is generally considered dangerous, there has only been one fatal human attack, and that too in the 1960s. In Palau, the largest crocodile measured in at 15ft.
On the 5th of November, 2005, President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. took the lead on a regional environmental initiative called the MICRONESIA CHALLENGE, which would conserve 30% of near-shore coastal waters and 20% of forest land by 2020. On the 25th of September, 2009, Palau announced that it would create the world’s 1st “Shark Sanctuary”. Palau banned all commercial fishing within the waters of its EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE (EEZ). The Sanctuary protects about 600,000sq.km of ocean.
Palau’s economy consists , primarily, of tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing. Tourist activities focus on scuba diving and snorkelling in the island’s rich marine environment., including its barrier reefs’ walls and WW-2 wrecks. The government is the largest employer, relying heavily on the US’ financial assistance. Business and Tourist arrivals numbered some 50,ooo in the financial year 2000/2001.