KOTA KINABALU: Borneo’s reputation as a biodiversity hotspot has been reaffirmed with the number of new species of frogs identified on the island doubling over the past 20 years.
An initial comprehensive list of 90 species of the amphibians were identified in the Field Guide to the Frogs of Borneo, in its first edition in 1997.
The list however had expanded to 180 species in its latest 2017 edition launched by Special Tasks Minister Datuk Seri Teo Chee Kang last week.
Naturalist Datuk C.L. Chan, who heads the Kota Kinabalu-based Natural History Publications that published the field guide, said the identification of many new species was an indication of Borneo’s rich diversity.
He said wildlife researchers, including Datuk Robert Inger, Rob Stuebing, T. Ulmar Graffe and J. Maximilian Dehling who authored the field guide, were able to reach remote locations across Sabah, Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei in recent years in order to identify the new species.
“Previously they were only able to collect samples in conservation areas such as Kinabalu Park and Danum Valley,” Chan said.
“There are perhaps another 20% more species yet to be identified.”
He said it was worrying that there could be some local frog species that went extinct before they could be identified.
“Some frog species are hardy and thrive in agriculture areas such as padi fields while others depend on a pristine environment to survive,” Chan said.
In the field guide, the authors stated that threats to Borneo’s frogs and other wildlife include the opening of land involving the removal of vegetation that increases siltation of streams.
This was compounded by runoff containing chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.
The researchers said other threats facing local frog species was the rearing of foreign species such as the American bullfrog and Taiwanese frog that were being farmed in Sabah, Sarawak and Kalimantan.
“Both have the potential to spread across disturbed habitats with expected deleterious impact on resident frog populations,” they wrote in the field guide.