New species found in Danum

Rare sightings: (Clockwise from top left) Begonia, which is quite possibly a new species, a Sumatran pit viper (yellow stripe) and a reticulated python in a fight to the death, an orang utan in its natural habitat and a clouded leopard marking its territory.

KOTA KINABALU: A team of researchers carrying out a two-week survey at the never-explored areas of Danum Valley has found some rare and new species of flora and fauna.

The team spotted and photographed or caught on camera traps several iconic and rare wildlife species like the pygmy elephant, clouded leopard, orang utan, sun bear, flat-headed cat, hornbill, Bornean bristlehead, pitta, great Argus, and bulwer’s pheasant.

But the Danum Valley Wildlife and Resource Survey involving several government departments and agencies, educational institutions and non-governmental organisations is still verifying the facts on the potentially new species.

Yayasan Sabah director Datuk Sapawi Ahmad said the survey, which started on Aug 15, covered Mt Tribulation and Mt Nicola located in the southwest and north of the Danum Valley conservation area (DVCA).

“Some flora species such as the Begonia may be new to science or new to the record for the DVCA, but these have yet to be ascertained by experts,” Sapawi said.

Among those exploring these new areas were Alim Biun of Sabah Parks, who was also the leader assigned to Mt Tribulation.

Dr Reuben Nilus of Sabah Forestry Department and five team members were the first to explore Mt Nicola.

They were extremely excited with the notable vegetation transition from lowland to heath and finally ultramafic forest ecosystem at Mt Nicola.

The survey required the members to set up camera traps at strategic locations within their assigned areas of more than 3.5sq km radius, where they conducted reconnaissance walks day and night to observe nocturnal wildlife and set up mist nets to trap birds, which were released as soon as they were identified and recorded.

In thanking the survey participants for their assistance and support, Sapawi said the findings would strengthen efforts to conserve the rainforest.

“If we lose the species, we will be losing untold riches,” he said.

The Danum Valley Field centre is a leading world-renowned field research station in the tropics.

Classified as a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve by the state government in 1995, DVCA is a playground for wildlife and is one of the few locations in Sabah where visitors are guaranteed of sighting wildlife.

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