Zoologists from Trinity College, Dublin, have found a new bird species living on the Wakatobi Islands of south-eastern Sulawesi. This area is regarded as a bio-diversity haven, partly due to the fact it has been poorly studied and also because of the rich diversity of species already uncovered there.
From the family of Flowerpeckers, the Wakatobi variety was found to be genetically distinct and considerably larger than other similar types of Flowerpecker; 27km of sea separates this new species from known varieties. The region is home to many species of bird found nowhere else in the world. This recent research indicates that more discoveries of creatures unknown to science are highly likely. The Trinity College zoologists are calling for a more in-depth survey of the bird populations in this little explored area.
Flowerpeckers are found in tropical climates and inhabit a wide range of habitats, from sea level to mountain environments. Their diet includes nectar, berries, insects and spiders, while not much is known about their breeding biology.
This discovery highlights once again, how little we know about the ecosystems in south-east Asia. Recently, the World Wildlife Fund for nature released a report documenting 367 new types of plant and animal discovered between 2012 and 2013 in the Greater Mekong Region, which consists of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Yunnan province of China. A lack of study in areas such as the Wakatobi Islands has led to different kinds of animal being clustered together as one.
The Sulawesi region is undergoing rapid economic development which threatens the existence of these newly described creatures, along with those that have yet to be found. Many areas also don’t have environmental protection, leaving pristine habitats vulnerable to illegal logging and housing expansion.