Indonesia has Something to Crow About
Crows are very mysterious birds. Associated with life, death and rebirth, they are very cunning and master tricksters. It’s no wonder then that for years, the Banggai Crow (Corvus unicolor) was believed to be extinct. But now, they are seen lurking amongst their native habitat again.
Known only by 2 specimens described in 1900, this Indonesian Crow was found on Peleng Island, off the east coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 2007. Pamela Rasmussen, a Michigan State University zoologist verified the finding. She studied the 2 original specimens—located at the American Museum of Natural History in New York—and compared them to the new findings to make sure they were of the same species.
“The morphometric analysis I did shows that all four unicolor specimens are very similar to each other, and distinctly different from enca specimens. We also showed that the two taxa differ in eye color — an important feature in Corvus,” Rasmussen said. “Not only did this confirm the identity of the new specimens but also the specific distinctness of Corvus unicolor, which has long been in doubt.”
More people have sighted the crow since its rediscovery and efforts to preserve the species will be going into effect soon, as well. Although the Banggai Crow is (thankfully) not extinct, it is critically endangered, and still hunted by the locals. Mochamad Indrawan of the University of Indonesia (spearhead of the discovery) is pushing the preservation initiative, which will include things like protecting its habitat, education and eco-tourism projects.
Even though this bird is endangered, since it was able to fool people once about its existence, I’m sure it will have no trouble doing it again. However, if worse comes to worse, they could always do as the legends say and return from the land of the dead.
By Heidi Marshall