A biological survey of New Britain island and the Nakanai Mountains yielded the discoveries of 200 new species. Conservation International scientist Stephen Richards said, “As we flew in to land the helicopter in a montane meadow, zooming into this spectacular landscape, it was an incredible realization, knowing that no scientist has ever been there before.” (Source: Conservation International) The areas they surveyed were so remote they had to travel by dugout canoe, on foot, and by helicopter to reach them.
One of the discoveries was a mountain mouse with a white tail. Another discovery was a pink-eyed katydid. Several frogs were also discovered. Many of the new species are insects. Mr. Richards said there are large areas of Papua New Guinea that are still unexplored. There is some chance still more species unknown to humans are living in these densely vegetated rainforest areas.
Though these areas are relatively untouched by modern industrial culture, palm oil farming has contributed to deforestation in neighboring lands. The survey covered areas with elevations of about 600 to 5,000 feet. Biological diversity has been protected by the steepness of the slopes and difficulty humans have in traversing the land. There aren’t any roads yet in certain, pristine places. Conservation International scientists were aided by indigenous people already familiar with the local biodiversity. If local people were involved in the work, will they be credited in the scientific documentation?
Many people reading news stories about endangered animals in decline, and newly discovered species might find the overall picture confusing. However, both things are true. Many wild animals and plants are endangered due to habitat loss, and at the same time some species are still unknown to humans because they live in areas that have not been explored extensively.
Leeanne Alonso of Conservation International said, “While very encouraging, these discoveries do not mean that our global biodiversity is out of the woods. On the contrary, they should serve as a cautionary message about how much we still don’t know about Earth’s still hidden secrets.”(Source: Wired)
New Britain is the 38th largest island in the world, with a surface area of 14,600 square miles. Formed by volcanic processes, the island is home to several active volcanoes. Mount Sinewit is the highest point, at 7,999 feet.
Image Credits: Stephen Richards, Conservation International