Species discovery in Papua New Guinea

(2008–2010)

Dr Martin Kaonga (front left) with the rest of the Nakanai team at the top camp helipad site, cleared in a forest which is far from the nearest road. (© Stephen Richards / Conservation International)

Dr Martin Kaonga (front left) with the rest of the Nakanai team at the top camp helipad site, cleared in a forest which is far from the nearest road. (© Stephen Richards / Conservation International)

From 2008–2010, A Rocha partnered with Conservation International (CI) to explore the most remote and unexplored mountains in Papua New Guinea.

This resulted in the discovery of over 200 species new to science.

We worked with the Papuan communities who live in and own the forests, and with staff from the PNG Institute for Biological Research, without whose experience the work would have been impossible. We used the Rapid Assessment Programme (RAP): a well-tested method of biological inventory which enables the rapid assessment of plants and animals in highly biodiverse areas.

Why Papua New Guinea?

PNG has a very high proportion of endemic plants and animals, making it a priority for conservation. The country is also home to a large number of Christians, with over 95% of the population reported to be affiliated to a church.

Our surveys: a brief summary

Survey locations: 1. Nakanai Mountains, New Britain • 2. Mt Michael, Eastern Highlands • 3. Muller Range, Southern Highlands (base map © Google)

Survey locations: 1. Nakanai Mountains, New Britain • 2. Mt Michael, Eastern Highlands • 3. Muller Range, Southern Highlands (base map © Google)

Nakanai Mountains, New Britain, April 2009

This site was chosen because the area had been proposed for World Heritage Status, but there was inadequate biological data. It was therefore a conservation priority. The four-week survey was highly successful in showing the richness of the biodiversity.

This mouse, captured high in the Nakanai Mountains, is not just a new species, but represents an entirely new genus. (© Stephen Richards / Conservation International)

This mouse, captured high in the Nakanai Mountains, is not just a new species, but represents an entirely new genus. (© Stephen Richards / Conservation International)

Mt Michael, Eastern Highlands, July 2009

This was an intensive, two-week survey closely involving the local community. It was chosen because of the apparent quality of the forest, the lack of biological data, its comparative accessibility and the proven commitment of the owning, Christian clans, to protecting the land.

Muller Range, Southern Highlands, September 2009

This area was chosen because of the lack of basic biological information about its flora and fauna. The four-week survey documented over 1,300 plant and animal species, of which at least 90 are potentially new to science. Sightings of Doria’s Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus dorianus, many possums and numerous signs of long-beaked echidnas indicate that there are healthy populations of the larger mammals in the area.

This spectacular rhododendron was found to be abundant in the Muller Range, yet it was completely unknown to the outside world. (© Wayne Takeuchi)

This spectacular rhododendron was found to be abundant in the Muller Range, yet it was completely unknown to the outside world. (© Wayne Takeuchi)

Our discoveries

Well over 200 new species were discovered. Nearly 100 insects and 100 spiders, 24 frogs, two mammals and nine plants.

This new species from New Britain, a yellow-spotted frog of the genus Platymantis, belongs to a group which lays their eggs on land, or in trees, where they hatch directly into froglets, without a tadpole stage. (© Stephen Richards / Conservation International)

This new species from New Britain, a yellow-spotted frog of the genus Platymantis, belongs to a group which lays their eggs on land, or in trees, where they hatch directly into froglets, without a tadpole stage. (© Stephen Richards / Conservation International)

December 2010

RICHARDS, S. J., & GAMUI, B. G. (2011). Rapid biological assessments of the Nakanai Mountains and the upper Strickland Basin: surveying the biodiversity of Papua New Guinea’s sublime karst environments. Arlington, VA, Conservation International.

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