Tuesday, February 07, 2006

as close to the Garden of Eden as we're going to find on Earth

Bruce Beehler, of the American group Conservation International, led a month-long expedition last November and December to the upper slopes of the Foja Mountains in western New Guinea.

And what they found on top of those slopes was akin to paradise on earth: new species of mammals, birds, butterflies, plants, flowers---species either never seen before or considered rare, creatures unafraid of human beings.

This is an area of New Guinea that is previously untouched and unexplored. And the creatures which the expedition found there do not seem to be fearful of human beings. Said Beehler:

"What was amazing was the lack of wariness of all the animals. In the wild, all species tend to be shy of humans, but that is learnt behaviour because they have encountered mankind. In Foja they did not appear to mind our presence at all. This is a place with no roads or trails and never, so far as we know, visited by man ... This proves there are still places to be discovered that man has not touched."

Among the creatures they found atop those slopes were the golden-fronted bowerbird and Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise, long believed to have disappeared as a separate species; six species of tree kangeroos, rare elsewhere in New Guinea; the long-beaked echidna, or spiny anteater, a member of a primitive group of egg-laying mammals; unidentified species of rhododendron; giant flowers; a rare spiny anteater, and many others.

To see pictures of some of these creatures, click here.

Beehler also says, “We found dozens, if not hundreds, of new species in what is probably the most pristine ecosystem in the whole Asian-Pacific region. There were so many new things it was almost overwhelming. And we have only scratched the surface of what is there."

To what can he compare this remarkable find? He says: "It is as close to the Garden of Eden as you're going to find on Earth.”

Read the story here.

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