Caption: British High Commissioner to PNG Jackie Baron (centre) with WWW country director Neil Stronarch (left) and conservation director Eric Verhaj at the launching.-Picture courtesy of BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION
By MALUM NALU
At least 1,060 new species of plants and animals were discovered on the island of New Guinea, comprising Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea, between 1998 and 2008, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The WWF announced this at the launch of a new species report of recent discoveries made on the island of New Guinea last week.
These were discovered in the forests, wetlands and waters of New Guinea and include 218 plants, 580 invertebrates, 71 fishes, 134 amphibians, 43 reptiles, two birds and 12 mammals.
"Such is the extent of New Guinea's biodiversity that new species continue to be discovered even today," according to the report.
"A 2009 expedition to the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea featured on the BBC series Lost Land of the Volcano found an estimated 40 new species, including at least 16 new species of frog, two new species of lizard, three new fish species, one new species of bat, and an undescribed endemic subspecies of the silky cuscus, a type of possum.
"Another mammal, and the largest new species of animal discovered during the trip, was a giant wooly rat, found in the forest inside the crater of Mount Bosavi.
"Since 2008, more than 100 new species have been described by scientists, and clearly many more await scientific discovery and discovery."
The report said if managed sustainably, the island's precious habitats such as reefs, rainforests and wetlands would continue to thrive into the next century, because unlike most other parts of the world, these resources were at present relatively untouched.
British High Commissioner to PNG Jackie Barson said the launch happened to coincide with the 2011 International Year of the Forest as declared by the UN General Assembly.
"Forests are home to 80% of all terrestrial species on Earth and 1.6 billion people rely on the resources that forests provide," she said.
"They cover a third of all land areas and are home to 300 million people worldwide.
"So all very pertinent to Papua New Guinea.
"As we know, PNG is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots.
"Its wildlife represents about 507 percent of the world's biodiversity as it is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds as well as plants.
"Visiting scientists continue to make remarkable discoveries in different parts of the country.
"The Island of New Guinea contains one of the world's last truly unspoilt wildernesses, a final frontier on the edge of the Pacific that is richly endowed with between 6 and 8% of global biodiversity on less than 0.5 per cent of the earth's landmass.
"With 36 million hectares of PNG still under natural forest cover there is potential for more discoveries but with the effects of climate change, and de forestation, being seen and felt everywhere, there has never been such an important time for Papua New Guinea to grasp environmental education and provide its population with valuable knowledge and skills to look after its diverse forestry which ultimately house these species."