The Hour Glass

“Lost World” Found in Indonesia Is Trove of New Species

Stefan Lovgren
National Geographic News
for National Geographic Channel
February 7, 2006
Original Link 1 Original Link 2

To boldly go where no one has gone before, one group of scientists didn’t have to venture into space. They found a lost world right here on Earth.

“It really was like crossing some sort of time warp into a place that people hadn’t been to,” said Bruce Beehler of the wildlife expedition he co-led in December into the isolated Foja Mountains on the tropical South Pacific island of New Guinea.

During a 15-day stay at a camp they had cut out of the jungle, the conservationists found a trove of animals never before documented, from a new species of the honeyeater bird to more than 20 new species of frogs.

“We were like kids in a candy store,” said Beehler, a bird expert with Conservation International in Washington, D.C. “Everywhere we looked we saw amazing things we had never seen before.”

Boggy Lakebed

The team spent nearly a month in the Foja Mountains on the western side of New Guinea, the part belonging to Indonesia (map andcountry profile). They used the lowland village of Kwerba (population: 200) as a base from which to survey area wildlife and plants.

From Kwerba, one part of the team ventured by foot up the mountains. Another group helicoptered to a boggy lakebed near the range’s high point.

Within minutes of landing, the scientists encountered a bizarre, orange-faced honeyeater bird (see photo). It proved to be a new bird species, the first discovered in New Guinea since 1939.

On the second day the lakebed group made another suprising find when a male and female Berlepsch’s six-wired bird of paradise came into the camp to perform a mating dance.

Until now the homeland of this “lost” bird had been unknown. It was the first time Western scientists had even seen an adult male (see photo).

“We had forgotten it even existed,” Beehler said.

Conservation International, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, and the National Geographic Society funded the expedition. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.) The 12-person team included U.S., Australian, and Indonesian scientists.

 

Tree Kangaroo

The local Kwerba people aided the researchers.

Traditionally considered the owners of the Foja Mountains, the Kwerba hunt game and collect herbs and medicines from the fringes of the pristine forest.

Giant crowned pigeons, small wallaby kangaroos, cassowary birds, tree kangaroos, and wild boars are abundant within an hour’s walk of the village. The Kwerba told the expedition members the locals had never ventured farther into the forest.

Walking from the Kwerba village to the mountain camp, the Kwerba said, would take about ten days.

“This is an area where there is apparently no evidence of humans,” Beehler said.

The Foja Mountains, however, are not entirely undiscovered.

In the 1970s scientist Jared Diamond—now famous for his best seller Guns, Germs, and Steel—became the first Westerner to penetrate the Foja range. He did not, though, visit the same area as Beehler’s group.

“He set the stage for all the work we did and gave us a lot of hints as to what we should look for,” Beehler said.

Beehler and his team located a series of display bowers—chambers or passages built by males to attract mates—of the golden-fronted bowerbird. Though Diamond had discovered the species, Beehler’s team took the first photographs of the bird (see photo).

Another highlight of the expedition was the discovery of a population of the golden-mantled tree kangaroo. It was the first record of this species in Indonesia (see photo).

Meanwhile, reptile experts documented 60 different kinds of frogs, including more than 20 new species.

Perhaps the most exciting discovery was a tiny frog less than 14 millimeters (0.6 inch) long. The animal that was detected only when it produced a soft call from among leaves on the steepest part of the forest floor (see photo).

“The sheer diversity of frogs and the number of species never before seen by Western scientists demonstrates just how poorly the frog fauna of the Foja Mountains, and indeed of the island of New Guinea, has been documented,” said Steve Richards, the expedition co-leader.

A botanical team collected more than 550 plant species, including at least five previously unknown woody plant species. Entomologists encountered more than 150 insect species, including four new ones.

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI
During a December 2005 expedition in Indonesia’s Foja Mountains, a researcher cradles a golden-mantled tree kangaroo, the first such tree kangaroo ever spotted in Indonesia.
Other animals found during the expedition are even rarer. The scientists documented dozens of new bird, frog, and insect species.

The golden-mantled tree kangaroo is just one of dozens of species discovered in late 2005 by a team of Indonesian, Australian, and U.S. scientists on the island of New Guinea.

The animal is the rarest arboreal, jungle-dwelling kangaroo in the world, the researchers say. This was the first time the mammal was found in Indonesia, making it only the second site in the world where the species is known to exist.

The kangaroo was discovered on an expedition in the Foja Mountains of Indonesia.

The National Geographic Society, Conservation International, and the Biology Research Center of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences supported the expedition.

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI

The smoky honeyeater is the first new bird species to be discovered on the island of New Guinea since 1939.

Scientists discovered the bird on a recent expedition to the Foja Mountains of Indonesia, on the island of New Guinea.

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI
In late 2005 scientists on the island of New Guinea took this first ever photo of the golden-fronted bowerbird, a bird known to exist since the 1890s but whose precise home was unknown until the 1980s

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI
This is the first photograph ever taken of what scientists are calling New Guinea’s “lost” bird of paradise.

The birdknown as Berlepschs six-wired bird of paradisehad been collected only once in the wild since its discovery more than a century ago. Its precise home range was unknown until now.

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI
This small frog is 1 of more than 20 new frog species discovered by scientists on an expedition in New Guinea in late 2005.

The tiny frog measures a mere 0.6 inch (14 millimeters) long and was detected only when it produced a soft call from among leaves on the steepest part of the forest floor.

© 2007 Bruce Beehler/CI

Virgin Territory

In the Foja Mountains there are more than 740,000 acres (300,000 hectares) of old-growth tropical forest that are apparently never visited by humans.

“This virgin territory has not been impacted by humans,” so plant and animal species are at natural population levels, Beehler said.

There is no immediate conservation threat to the region, which was designated a wildlife sanctuary by the Indonesian government more than two decades ago.

“The dripping moss forests of the Foja Mountains are one of the last places on Earth where humans have failed to make an imprint,” said Richards, the expedition co-leader. “That they harbor such a treasure trove of biological novelties adds even greater importance to the protection of this spectacular area.”

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About the Author:

Ashton is a freelance media, developer and vision air bringing images across the web and in broadcasting. He’s very self-motivated with strong traditional values in different areas. Check out some of his posts on some interesting things that’s going on in the world, also some other healthy things that are being shared.
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