palm oil plantation on Borneo; photo by WWF/Sampsa Kiianmaa (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

A giant stick insect, a lungless frog and a slug that shoots ‘love darts’ are among the 123 new species recently discovered in Borneo’s rainforest.

From the Guardian:

Conservationists say the weird and wonderful creatures were discovered thanks to a pioneering deal between three governments to protect and conserve 220,000 square kilometres of lush rainforest on the island.

The ‘Heart of Borneo’ is a 220,000 square km area of protected rainforest on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. Borneo is politically shared between the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei and considered extremely valuable in terms of biodiversity.

Borneo’s forests are under threat by the logging, palm oil and mining industries. The WWF’s Heart of Borneo project is crucial to the survival of Borneo’s endangered species including the orangutan, pygmy elephant, rhinoceros and clouded leopard; as well as the discovery of new species.

Borneo’s natural wealth goes far beyond finite resources that can be mined, farmed or chopped down in its forests.

From an AFP report:

The new discoveries just show the wealth of biodiversity on Borneo island and the promise of many more future discoveries that could eventually help cure illnesses like cancer and AIDS and contribute to our daily lives.

– Adam Tomasek, head of WWF’s Heart of Borneo

The incredible variety of flora and fauna on the great island led Charles Darwin to describe Borneo as ‘one great luxuriant hothouse made by nature for herself’.

From an msnbc article:

Scientists are just beginning to get to the remotest regions of that hothouse – but they’re racing against developers who are putting in roads, chopping down trees and turning large tracts of the forests into palm oil plantations. About half of the Heart is in private hands, so “the private sector is crucial to ensuring sustainable land use,” the WWF’s report says.

The Heart of Borneo initiative is just three years old, but is providing a solid foundation for important conservation efforts on the island that is home to an astounding amount of unique bird, primate, reptile and plant species. And let’s not forget the flying frogs.

Additional resources:

Guardian – In pictures: Weird and wonderful species discovered in the Heart of Borneo

WWF – Heart of Borneo Forests

Telegraph – World’s longest insect among haul of new species discovered in remote rainforest