Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A viverrid?

After three days deep in rainforest on the Malaysian side of the central highlands of Borneo, I am now in transit in Singapore airport en route to London.

In Batang Ai national park I was one of the guests of WWF Malaysia and Sarawak Forestry. The chief technical officer for WWF's Borneo Programme alerted us to news that appears
here on the sighting of what may be a new species of mammal. The timing is fortuitous for WWF's campaign for a huge transboundary "Heart of Borneo" reserve.

The day before yesterday I was hiking high on a precipitous ridge in the forest not too far from where the discovery was made. A Mexican colleague and I were with biologists and local assistants surveying wild orang utans. We didn't see any of our primate brethren, but did count seventeen of their "nests" high in the canopy.

The local Iban people do not kill orang utans because they believe them to be descendents of their ancestors. This is, of course, literally true in a scientific sense.

We did see a tiny, very fast-moving squirrel that resembles our much more remote ancestors. Later when traveling upriver we saw two large eagle owls, and beautiful frogs in the rushing cascade of fast water over smooth ancient stone.

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