INT’L TEAM DISCOVERS … "GARDEN OF EDEN"

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INT’L TEAM DISCOVERS … "GARDEN OF EDEN"

 user 2006-02-07 at 10:19:00 am Views: 44
  • #14292

    New species found in Papua ‘Eden’
    An
    international team of scientists says it has found a “lost world” in
    the Indonesian jungle that is home to dozens of new animal and plant
    species.”It’s as close to the Garden of Eden as you’re going to find on
    Earth,” said Bruce Beehler, co-leader of the group.
    The team
    recorded new butterflies, frogs, and a series of remarkable plants that
    included five new palms and a giant rhododendron flower.
    The survey also found a honeyeater bird that was previously unknown to science.
    It’s beautiful, untouched, unpopulated forest; there’s no evidence of human impact or presence
        Dr Bruce Beehler, Conservation International
    The
    research group – from the US, Indonesia and Australia – trekked through
    an area in the mist-shrouded Foja Mountains, located just north of the
    vast Mamberamo Basin of north-western (Indonesian) New Guinea.
    The
    researchers spent nearly a month in the locality, detailing the
    wildlife and plantlife from the lower hills to near the summit of the
    Foja range, which reaches more than 2,000m in elevation.
    “It’s
    beautiful, untouched, unpopulated forest; there’s no evidence of human
    impact or presence up in these mountains,” Dr Beehler told the BBC News
    website.
    “We were dropped in by helicopter. There’s not a trail anywhere; it was really hard to get around.”
    He
    said that even two local indigenous groups, the Kwerba and Papasena
    people, customary landowners of the forest who accompanied the
    scientists, were astonished at the area’s isolation.
    “The men from
    the local villages came with us and they made it clear that no one they
    knew had been anywhere near this area – not even their ancestors,” Mr
    Beehler said.
    Unafraid of humans
    One of the team’s most
    remarkable discoveries was a honeyeater bird with a bright orange patch
    on its face – the first new bird species to be sighted on the island of
    New Guinea in more than 60 years.
    The researchers also solved a
    major ornithological mystery – the location of the homeland of
    Berlepsch’s six-wired bird of paradise.
    First described in the late
    19th century through specimens collected by indigenous hunters from an
    unknown location on New Guinea, the species had been the focus of
    several subsequent expeditions that failed to find it.
    On only the
    second day of the team’s expedition, the amazed scientists watched as a
    male Berlepsch’s bird of paradise performed a mating dance for an
    attending female in the field camp.
    It was the first time a live
    male of the species had been observed by Western scientists, and proved
    that the Foja Mountains was the species’ true home.
    “This bird had
    been filed away and forgotten; it had been lost. To rediscover it was,
    for me, in some ways, more exciting than finding the honeyeater. I
    spent 20 years working on birds of paradise; they’re pretty darn sexy
    beasts,” Dr Beehler enthused.
    The team also recorded a golden-mantled tree kangaroo, which was previously thought to have been hunted to near-extinction.
    Mr Beehler said some of the creatures the team came into contact with were remarkably unafraid of humans.
    Two
    long-beaked echidnas, primitive egg-laying mammals, even allowed
    scientists to pick them up and bring them back to their camp to be
    studied, he added.
    The December 2005 expedition was organised by the
    US-based organisation Conservation International, together with the
    Indonesian Institute of Sciences.”
    The team says it did not have
    nearly enough time during its expedition to survey the area completely
    and intends to return later in the year.
    The locality lies within a protected zone and Dr Beehler believes its future is secure in the short term.
    “The
    key investment is the local communities. Their knowledge, appreciation
    and oral traditions are so important. They are the forest stewards who
    will look after these assets,” Dr Beehler told the BBC.