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Papaua New Guinea forests reveal 56 new species

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 25, 2009
Scientists said Wednesday they have uncovered 56 new species in the teaming virgin tropical forests of Papua New Guinea including jumping spiders and a tiny chirping frog.

The 2008 two-month expedition by British, Canadian and PNG scientists to the Pacific islands found a wealth of treasures and documented some 600 species, said Conservation International (CI) which organized the trip.

Among them were 50 spider species, two plants, three frogs and an elegant striped gecko which are believed to completely new to science.

"The vast Kaijende Uplands and nearby valleys represent one of Papua New Guinea's largest undeveloped highlands wilderness areas, and all of it is under the tenure of local clan landowners. These forests are essential to their traditional lifestyles," said CI scientist Steve Richards, who led the expedition.

The three new frogs include a tiny brown one with a sharp chirping call, a bright green tree frog with enormous eyes and a torrent-dwelling frog that has a loud ringing call.

Much of PNG's forests remain unexplored, and have been kept in pristine condition thanks to the care of the local tribes who inhabit them.

"Their intimate knowledge of and stewardship over a large tract of this vast upland wilderness has led to conservation of their wildlife and environment," said Bruce Beehler from Conservation International.

The tribes rely on the wilderness for hunting as well as gathering forest products, and the region provides fresh drinking water to thousands of people living in the Enga Southern Highlands as well as Western and Saudaun provinces.

The group, based in Arlington, Virginia, also highlighted that the vast forested wilderness played a critical role in helping slow climate change as it sucks in large amounts of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Since 1990, Conservation International, which is a private organization, has led more than 60 expeditions to different parts of the globe, discovering more than 700 new species.

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