Borneo’s Mystery Species

Mystery species discovered in Borneo
Mystery species discovered in Borneo

WWF researchers have discovered a mysterious new creature in the dense central forests of Borneo.

The animal, a mammal slightly larger than a domestic cat with dark red fur and a long, bushy tail, was photographed twice by a camera trap at night. There are still a number of stages to go through before the animal can be officially classed as new to science, but at this stage it is believed to be a completely new species of carnivore.

This would make it the first new carnivorous mammal to be found on the island – which has one of the highest levels of biodiversity on earth – for more than a century. WWF is hoping to be able to confirm more about the amazing discovery by setting cage traps and catching a live specimen.

The animal was photographed in Kayan Mentarang National Park in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, one of the world’s biggest islands, which is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. WWF calls the mountainous region the “Heart of Borneo”, a vast tract of rainforest which it believes should be made a protected area.

Stephen Wulffraat, discoverer of the so-far unnamed animal, said: “We showed the photos to locals who know the wildlife of the area, but nobody had ever seen this creature before. We also consulted several Bornean wildlife experts. Some thought it looked like a lemur, but most were convinced it was a new species of carnivore.”

Discoveries of new mammals are not an everyday occurrence. While there are millions of unnamed insects, mammal species are far less numerous and most were discovered and described a century or more ago.

But in recent years, a surprising number have appeared: a monkey in Africa, a new rodent in Laos, and several deer species in Vietnam. Carnivores are rarer still, so if the Borneo find can be confirmed it will be an exciting day for zoologists.

There is a very real risk that the creature might remain a mystery forever as its habitat is seriously threatened, as the Indonesian government is planning to create the world’s largest palm oil plantation in this area which would devastate forests, wildlife and indigenous communities. The scheme, funded by the China Development Bank, is expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares – half the size of The Netherlands.

Callum Rankine, Head of Species for WWF-UK said: “This is an incredible find, and highlights the urgent need to conserve the unique forests in the Heart of Borneo. This creature – whatever it is – hasn’t been seen since the pictures were taken and is therefore likely to occur in very low numbers. It would be a tragedy if it became extinct before it was even described to science – and that is a very real risk.”

Related Links:
Original WWF Article
Loren Coleman’s Cryptozoo News
Times Online Article

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