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A team of scientists led by Conservation International (CI) found dozens of new species in a survey of New Guinea’s Foja Mountains. The December 2005 trip by a team of U.S., Indonesian, and Australian scientists discovered new species of frogs, butterflies, plants, and an orange-faced honeyeater, the first new bird from the island of New Guinea in more than 60 years.
The discoveries were made under CI’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) which deploys expert scientists to poorly understood regions in order to quickly assess the biological diversity of an area. The conservation organization makes RAP results immediately available to local and international decision makers to help support conservation action and biodiversity protection.
Mammal expert Kris Helgen is seen holding a golden-mantled tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus pulcherrimus) in New Guinea. Photo from Conservation International.
“It’s as close to the Garden of Eden as you’re going to find on Earth,” said Bruce Beehler, vice president of CI’s Melanesia Center for Biodiversity Conservation and a co-leader of the expedition. “The first bird we saw at our camp was a new species. Large mammals that have been hunted to near extinction elsewhere were here in abundance. We were able to simply pick up two Long-Beaked Echidnas, a primitive egg-laying mammal that is little known.”
The expedition found a new large mammal for Indonesia — the Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus pulcherrimus), formerly known from only a single mountain in neighboring Papua New Guinea. Other discoveries included what may be the largest rhododendron flower on record — almost six inches across — along with more than 20 new frogs and four new butterflies. The new species of honeyeater, the first new bird discovered on the island of New Guinea since 1939, has a bright orange face-patch with a pendant wattle under each eye.
New Guinea’s forests are some of the most biodiverse in the world, but they are increasingly under threat from commercial logging. However, the Foja Mountains of western New Guinea are so isolated — in the furthest reaches of the Indonesian province of West Papua – they remain relatively untouched. In other parts of Indonesia poaching is taking a heavy toll on wildlife populations.
More pictures from Conservation International:
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