Borneo yields more than 50 new species

Borneo yields more than 50 new species

2 January 2007

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Indonesia — More than 52 new species of animals and plants were identified on the island of Borneo in 2006, according toscientists.

Borneo is under threat from severe deforestation

The discoveries, described in a report compiled by conservation group WWF, include 30 unique fish species, two tree frog species, 16 ginger species, three tree species and a colour-changing snake.

The WWF says that these findings further highlight the need to conserve the habitat and species of the world’s third largest island.

“The more we look the more we find,” said Stuart Chapman, WWF International Coordinator of the Heart of Borneo Programme.

“These discoveries reaffirm Borneo’s position as one of the most important centres of biodiversity in the world.”

A miniature fish, measuring less than one centimetre in length, was found in the highly acidic blackwater peat swamps of the island, the WWF said in theirreport.

Stuart Chapman, WWF: “These discoveries reaffirm Borneo’s position as one of the most important centres of biodiversity in the world.” 

Other creatures new to science discovered last year included six Siamese fighting fish, a catfish with protruding teeth and a tree frog with striking bright green eyes.

For plants, the ginger discoveries more than double the entire number of the Etlingera species found to date, and the tree flora of Borneo has been expanded by three new tree species of the genus Beilschmiedia.

Several of these new species were found in the “Heart of Borneo”, a 220,000km2 mountainous region covered with equatorial rainforest in the centre of the island.

However, the WWF has warned that this habitat continues to be threatened with large areas of forest being increasingly cleared for rubber, oil palm and pulp production.

Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia has increased to an average of 2 million hectares per year and today only half of Borneo’s original forest cover remains, according to the global conservation organization.

“The remote and inaccessible forests in the Heart of Borneo are one of the world’s final frontiers for science and many new species continue to be discovered here. We are just waiting for the next surprise,” added Chapman.

“But these forests are also vital because they are the source of most of the island’s major rivers, and act as a natural ‘fire-break’ against the fires that have ravaged the lowlands thisyear.”

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