More than 360 new species discovered on Kalimantan since 1994 - Tourism Indonesia


Sunday, August 5, 2007

More than 360 new species discovered on Kalimantan since 1994

A new species of insect, animal or plant is discovered every month in Kalimantan, conservation group WWF said Tuesday as it warned that logging and plantations threatened the fragile "Heart of Kalimantan" ecosystem.

"Between 1994 and 2004, at least 361 new species have been discovered in Kalimantan," WWF Indonesia director Mubariq Ahmad told AFP.

"In the past 10 years, there is discovery of new species every month. We had found 260 new insects, 50 plants, seven frogs, snakes, six lizards, 30 fresh water fish, five crabs, two snakes and a toad," he added.

Recent exotic discoveries include poisonous "sticky frogs," "forest walking catfish" able to travel short distances out of water and the transparent "glass catfish".

Large animals have also yielded surprises, with the Kalimantan orang-utan found to be a distinct species to its Sumatran cousin and the island's pygmy elephants recently reclassified as a separate sub-species.

"The discoveries of the new species in the area proves that Kalimantan, one of the world's last remaining rain forests, is among the most important biodiversity areas in the world," he said.

WWF International launched its "Heart of Kalimantan" program two years ago, covering a 22 million hectare rain forest shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and the
oil-rich kingdom of Brunei.

Ahmad, who has visited the area numerous times, said its forests were a major source of water for Borneo, describing them as the island's "water tank".

"If the forest is destroyed, the whole island will be devastated because most of the rivers on the island originate here," he said.

Ahmad warned that logging and palm oil plantation activities risk destroying the biodiversity in the area but acknowledged that the three Southeast Asian countries have committed to protect it.

"We were alarmed by some efforts to expand large-scale palm oil plantations in the area but Jakarta stopped it. There are also logging activities but we want to work with them to ensure sustainable development," he said.

Ahmad said the upland area was not suitable for palm oil and was working with timber companies to ensure the environment was not destroyed.

"Oil palm plantations and logging are current primary threats to the forest," he said.

Large areas of forest are being cleared for commercial uses, including rubber, oil palm and pulp production, the WWF said.

Ahmad said Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei have agreed to protect the area and would ink a formal agreement early next year to ensure sustainable development of the forest.

"There is political will by them to protect the 'Heart of Kalimantan' forest area," he said. "Losing the 'Heart of Kalimantan' would be an unacceptable tragedy not only for Kalimantan, but for all Asia, and the planet," the WWF said.

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