Monday, March 20, 2017

Asian Correspondent: Two new bird species discovered in Borneo

BORNEO’S remote Meratus Mountains are home to two species of bird previously unknown to scientists.

According to a new study published in academic journal BirdingASIA, the mountain range in South Kalimantan, Indonesia, is home to two species that have been named the ‘Meratus White-eye’ and the ‘Meratus Jungle Flycatcher.’

Whilst the mountainous regions of Malaysian Borneo in Sarawak and Sabah are relatively well-explored, Indonesia’s Kalimantan provinces have been seldom visited by avian experts.

Nevertheless, “few people would have predicted that there are still a couple of undescribed bird species holding out in an isolated tract of hills,” one of the researchers, Dr Frank Rheindt from the National University of Singapore, told Asian Correspondent.

“Within South-east Asia, the island of Borneo is one of the longest studied regions.”

The only previous documented ornithological survey in the Meratus region was made in October 1996, was significantly hampered by heavy rainfall, and only focused on areas below 900 metres.

The 2016 study found that habitat between 500 and 700m was largely destroyed for cinnamon and rubber plantations, gradually giving way to degraded forest with recent and ongoing logging activity.

Between 900 and 1,400m, where the researchers undertook observation, was closed-canopy forest.

Borneo is the largest island in Asia, boasts one of the richest ecosystems on earth and is home to many species not found anywhere else.

This includes 420 birds, more than 40 of which are endemic, as well as the pygmy elephant, proboscis monkeys and Asia’s only great ape – the orangutan.

Orangutans only exist on Borneo and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Across the swamps, mangroves and rainforest of Borneo, some 15,000 plants can be found, 6,000 of which are endemic.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), three species are discovered every month in the Heart of Borneo conservation area.