for National Geographic News
To boldly go where no one has gone before, one group of scientists didn't have to venture into space. They found a lost world right here on Earth.
"It really was like crossing some sort of time warp into a place that people hadn't been to," said Bruce Beehler of the wildlife expedition he co-led in December into the isolated Foja Mountains on the tropical South Pacific island of New Guinea.
During a 15-day stay at a camp they had cut out of the jungle, the conservationists found a trove of animals never before documented, from a new species of the honeyeater bird to more than 20 new species of frogs.
"We were like kids in a candy store," said Beehler, a bird expert with Conservation International in Washington, D.C. "Everywhere we looked we saw amazing things we had never seen before."
The team spent nearly a month in the Foja Mountains on the western side of New Guinea, the part belonging to Indonesia (map and country profile). They used the lowland village of Kwerba (population: 200) as a base from which to survey area wildlife and plants.
From Kwerba, one part of the team ventured by foot up the mountains. Another group helicoptered to a boggy lakebed near the range's high point.
Within minutes of landing, the scientists encountered a bizarre, orange-faced honeyeater bird (see photo). It proved to be a new bird species, the first discovered in New Guinea since 1939.
On the second day the lakebed group made another suprising find when a male and female Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise came into the camp to perform a mating dance.
Until now the homeland of this "lost" bird had been unknown. It was the first time Western scientists had even seen an adult male (see photo).
"We had forgotten it even existed," Beehler said.
Conservation International, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, and the National Geographic Society funded the expedition. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.) The 12-person team included U.S., Australian, and Indonesian scientists.
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