Unknown Giant Rat Discovered in New Guinea Jungle
The Associated Press
Mammalogist Martua Sinaga holds a 3-pound giant rat new to
science in the Foja mountains in Indonesia's Papua province.
JAKARTA, Indonesia —
Researchers in a remote jungle in Indonesia have discovered
a giant rat and a tiny possum that are apparently new to
science, underscoring the stunning biodiversity of the
Southeast Asian nation, scientists said Monday.
Unearthing new species of mammals in the 21st century is
considered very rare. The discoveries by a team of American
and Indonesian scientists are being studied further to
confirm their status.
The animals were found in the Foja mountains rainforest in
eastern Papua province in a June expedition, said U.S.-based
Conservation International, which organized the trip along
with the Indonesian Institute of Science.
"The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical
city rat," said Kristofer Helgen, a scientist with the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington. "With no fear of
humans, it apparently came into the camp several times
during the trip."
The possum was described as "one of the worlds smallest
A 2006 expedition to the same stretch of jungle — dubbed by
Conservation International as a "Lost World" because until
then humans had rarely visited it — unearthed scores of
exotic new species of palms, butterflies and palms.
Papua, otherwise known as the island of New Guinea, has some
of the world's largest tracts of rainforest, but like
elsewhere in Indonesia they are being ravaged by illegal
Scientists said last year that the Foja area was not under
immediate threat, largely because it was so remote.
"It's comforting to know that there is a place on Earth so
isolated that it remains the absolute realm of wild nature,"
said expedition leader Bruce Beehler. "We were pleased to
see that this little piece of Eden remains as pristine and
enchanting as it was when we first visited."