Friday, November 26, 2010

East Kalimantan’s Unexplored Forest Reveals Mystery

On December 6th, 2005, a team of ecoresearchers on Earth — in East Kalimantan — found evidence of a possible new carnivore, sparking excitement among researchers around the world.
It may not have been earth-shattering news, but it was interesting to many, because it made us realize that even on Earth, Mother Nature never ceases to surprise its inhabitants.
The red carnivore, which looks a little like a civet, was spotted in the 1.3-million-hectare Kayan Mentarang protected rain forest, near the Lalut Birai research station, where a nine-strong team from non-governmental organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Ministry of Forestry was compiling a biodiversity inventory.
A camera trap installed by local WWF staffers Andris Salo and Amat Uti in April 2003 captured two pictures of a creature with small ears, brownish, dark red fur throughout, large hind legs and a long thick, bushy tail.
“First, I was confused. I have never seen such a creature before,” said research team coordinator Stephan Wulffraat, who, at that time, had lived in the jungle for five years. “Later, I grew increasingly excited,” the Dutch ecologist said, sharing his feelings upon the discovery of a possible new species.
He showed the pictures to local staff and to several mammal experts from institutions like the Chicago Field Museum, U.S., where Dr. Harry Leaney, who has researched Southeast Asian mammals for 30 years, worked. He also contacted the Smithsonian, where Dr. Louise Emmons, who claims to have seen specimens of all mammals in Sabah, worked, and the Sabah Museum.
Nobody knew what kind of animal it was, Wulffraat wrote in his new book, Lalut Birai. It was definitely not a cat species, he continued. The book will be the most comprehensive flora and fauna inventory report released by the Lalut Birai research team. It contains information on thousands of flora and fauna species in the mysterious jungle.
Wulffraat said that the last carnivore found in Southeast Asia was the Borneo ferret-badger in 1895. The possible new carnivore would not be the first new species found in the Kayan Mentarang rain forest.
“Some 361 new species have been found in Kayan Mentarang over the last 10 years,” coordinator of WWF’s Heart of Borneo Program Bambang Supriyanto said on Monday in Jakarta during the press conference on the possible new species.
Of the 361 confirmed and published new species, 260 were insects, 50 plants, 30 freshwater fish, seven frogs, six lizards, five crabs and a toad.
According to a WWF report titled Borneo’s Lost World: Newly Discovered Species on Borneo, the discoveries are an underestimate as the discovery of many species has not yet been published in scientific literature or the press.
“In addition, whole groups of animals remain under-studied, including bats, which make up 40 percent to 50 percent of tropical mammal fauna and other small mammal groups, which are particularly difficult to survey due to their nocturnal habits, avoidance of possible predators or difficult-to-understand behavior,” the report said.
Such a situation made Wulffraat’s excitement at the red carnivore understandable.
Wulffraat was eager to return to Lalut Birai after spending a tough week answering a continuous stream of calls from reporters in Jakarta.
It will take two flights to East Kalimantan and an hour-long motorized canoe ride on the Bahau River for him to merge into the Kayan Mentarang rain forest once again.(Source: The Jakarta Post)

No comments: