Two New Mammals Found in Papua ‘Lost World’

Conservation International (CI)SEMINYAK ~ Two mammals believed new to science have been found on the latest expedition to a virtual lost world found in Papua in 2005, Conservation International (CI) said this week.

Scientists from CI and the Indonesia Institute of Science (LIPI) visited the Foja Mountains in June 2007, following a first trip in late 2005 that saw them discover dozens of new plants and animals, CI said in a statement.

“During the June expedition, the team documented two mammals, a Cercartetus pygmy possum, one of the world’s smallest marsupials, and a Mallomys giant rat, both currently under study and apparently new to science,” CI said.

The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical city rat and visited the scientists’ camp several times, lacking any fear of humans.

The team also recorded the mating displays of several rare and little-known birds for the first time, CI said.

“It’s comforting to know that there is a place on earth so isolated that it remains the absolute realm of wild nature,” CI vice president Bruce Beehler, who led the expedition, said in the statement.

“We were pleased to see that this little piece of Eden remains as pristine and enchanting as it was when we first visited.”

The Fojas are part of the Mamberamo Basin, the largest unroaded tropical forest in the Asia-Pacific, and the Indonesian government has declared the region a wildlife sanctuary, CI said.

CBS News sent a camera crew with the team on their second visit and aired an account of the expedition on Sunday, CI said.

The crew obtained the first film documentation of several spectacular birds found in Foja, capturing the courtship displays of the golden-fronted bowerbird and of the black sicklebill bird of paradise, the group said.

CI and LIPI plan a third expedition back in late 2008 or 2009 that will seek to survey the summit forests of the highest peak, and the little-studied lower elevations. They expect to find more new species of frogs, mammals, butterflies and plants, CI added.

Activists have already warned that the forests in the area are under threat from large-scale deforestation.

Indonesia is losing its forests at the world’s fastest rate, with some two million hectares disappearing each year, according to environmental watchdog Greenpeace.

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