Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on February 10, 2008
With all the depressing news of species extinction, it’s wonderful to receive some good news — that two new species have been discovered in Indonesia. Especially when one of the species is none other than a… giant rat. (I know, I was hoping it was a new breed of polar bear too, but it is a new species, so let’s get excited, people.)
The other is more photo-op friendly — a tiny possum.
Both were discovered by scientists on a recent expedition to the virtually untouched Foja Mountains, which is located in an extremely remote part of western New Guinea. Vice President of Conservation International (CI) and expedition leader Bruce Beehler, says, “It’s comforting to know that there is a place on earth so isolated that it remains the absolute realm of wild nature. We were pleased to see that this little piece of Eden remains as pristine and enchanting as it was when we first visited”.
During the expedition in June of last year, the team was able to document the “Cercartetus pygmy possum, one of the world’s smallest marsupials, and a Mallomys giant rat, both currently under study and apparently new to science.” With regards to the latter, it seems the rat discovered the scientists. “The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical city rat,” said Kristofer Helgen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “With no fear of humans, it apparently came into the camp several times during the trip.” Yikes.
The scientists, accompanied by a National Geographic photographer/scientist and a CBS News camera crew (the first ever film crew allowed into the area) were also able to record the mating habits of several rare birds — namely the golden-fronted bowerbird (Amblyornis flavifrons) and the black sicklebill bird of paradise (Epimachus fastuosus). Additionally, the team documented the “lost” Bird of Paradise (Parotia berlepschi) and the wattled smoky honeyeater (Melipotes carolae), both known only from the Foja Mountains.
The Foja Wilderness is part of the largest virgin tropical forest in the Asia Pacific region and is declared a National Wildlife Sanctuary by the Indonesian Government. Conservation International “continues to work with the government and local communities to build on this conservation success and ensure even greater protection of the area.”
We commend the efforts of these (brave) scientists and will certainly keep an eye on this fascinating area of the world.
(via Wildlife Extra)