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Red Bornean carnivore
An illustration, released by World Wildlife Fund Indonesia, shows a possible new species of mammal, called Red Bornean carnivore.
(Photo: Wahyu Gumelar/World Wildlife Fund Indonesia/AP Wide World)

New Mammal Discovered
By Gail Hennessey

December 12, 2005—Lurking in the mountains and rainforests of Borneo, an island of Indonesia, is a mysterious new creature. Scientists are excited by the possibility that it may be a new species of mammal never seen before.

Recently photographed by a camera trap in an area called the "Heart of Borneo," the mammal may be the first new species found there in about a hundred years. Larger than a house cat, with dark red fur and a long bushy tail, the mammal spends a lot of time in trees. This could be why it hasn't been spotted before, scientists say.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) hopes to capture one of the mysterious creatures to determine whether it is indeed a new species.

"Until we have a live specimen in our hands, we can't be 100 percent sure. Now, I'm only 90 percent sure," said Stephan Wulffraat, a Dutch biologist coordinating the search.

Researchers are setting fur traps next to camera traps. The fur traps will snag a patch of the animal's hair for DNA testing. Camera traps, relying on infrared beams set up along forest paths, will take photographs when the animal trips the beam.

New and in Danger

The new find may be in for trouble from an old problem: destruction of habitat. The government of Indonesia plans to build the world's largest palm oil plantation in Borneo.

"There is a message beyond the discovery of this animal," Nita Irawati Murjani told Scholastic News Online. Murjani is the International Communications Officer for the WWF. "That is the importance to save the Heart of Borneo, a proposed conservation area, which is predominated by mountainous regions covered by very large interconnected rain forests. By protecting this area, it will ensure the survival of Borneo's unique biodiversity."

More than 360 new species, mostly insects and plants, have been discovered on Borneo since 1994. The last mammal found in Borneo was the ferret-badger in 1895. With the island currently boasting 44 mammals that can't be found anywhere else in the world, scientists are excited to increase that number by one.


RELATED WEB SITES

Borneo: Island in the Clouds
Explore this Web site to learn about the unique history and geography of Borneo.

Endangered Species
Check out our Scholastic News Special Report to learn about endangered species and the importance of conservation.


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