1,060 New Species Found in New Guinea (Photos)

By Cassie Ryan
Epoch Times Staff
Created: June 27, 2011 Last Updated: April 10, 2012
Related articles: Science » Earth & Environment
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Snubfin dolphin, Orcaella heinsohni. (Isabel Beasley/Wikimedia)

Snubfin dolphin, Orcaella heinsohni. (Isabel Beasley/Wikimedia)

A new study from WWF, the wildlife conservation nonprofit, reports that 1,060 new species have been identified in New Guinea, the world’s largest tropical island. It also points out they are at risk, particularly due to logging and clearing forests for agriculture.

Blue tree monitor lizard, Varanus macraei. (Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia)

Blue tree monitor lizard, Varanus macraei. (Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia)

Some of the more exotic new species include a one-centimeter-long fanged frog, a blind snake, a snub-fin dolphin, a 2.5-meter-long river shark, brightly colored snails, and an anteater named after British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, called Sir David’s Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi).

The species were found at a rate of two per week over a 10-year period, according to the report which is titled Final Frontier: Newly Discovered species of New Guinea (1998-2008).

“This report shows that New Guinea’s forests and rivers are among the richest in the world,” said Neil Stronach, WWF Western Melanesia’s Program Representative, in a press release.

“But it also shows us that unchecked human demand can push even the wealthiest environments to bankruptcy.”

The island is split into Papua New Guinea (PNG) to the east and Indonesia to the west, with an estimated two-thirds of all its species being found nowhere else in the world.

“If you look at New Guinea in terms of biological diversity, it is much more like a continent than an island,” Stronach said. “Scientists found an average of two new species each week from 1998-2008 -- something nearly unheard of in this day and age.”

Dendrobium spectabile, one of eight orchids found to be new to science. (Orchi/Wikimedia)

Dendrobium spectabile, one of eight orchids found to be new to science. (Orchi/Wikimedia)

Susanne Schmitt, New Guinea Programme Manager at WWF-UK, said that the island’s natural habitats are being lost at an alarming rate, despite its remote location. From 1972 to 2002, nearly a quarter of the island’s rainforests were cleared or damaged.

“The island’s forests are facing serious threats including logging, mining, wildlife trade and conversion to agriculture, particularly oil palm,” she said in the release.

“As a region with high rates of poverty, it is absolutely essential that New Guinea’s precious reefs, rainforests, and wetlands are not plundered but managed sustainably for future generations”.

Fortunately, according to WWF, many oil palm producers in New Guinea and around the world are aiming for sustainable certification, for example Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) guarantees social and environmental conditions have been met during production, and that high conservation value forests are not cleared.

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