Giant Rat, Tiny Possum Discovered in Indonesian Jungle

Jakarta, Indonesia
Associated Press
December 17, 2007

Researchers in a remote jungle in Indonesia have discovered a giant rat and a tiny possum that are apparently new to science, underscoring the stunning biodiversity of the Southeast Asian nation, scientists announced Monday.

(See more photos.)

The discoveries by a team of American and Indonesian scientists are being studied further to confirm their status as newfound species.

The animals were found during a June expedition in the Foja-mountain rain forest in eastern Papua province, said U.S.-based Conservation International (CI), which organized the trip along with the Indonesian Institute of Science.

"The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical city rat," said Kristofer Helgen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, according to CI's press release. "With no fear of humans, it apparently came into the camp several times during the trip."

The possum was described as "one of the worlds smallest marsupials."

A 2006 expedition to the same stretch of jungle—dubbed the "Lost World" by Conservation International because before then humans had rarely visited it—found scores of exotic new species, including birds and butterflies.

(Related story: "Lost World" Found in Indonesia Is Trove of New Species [February 7, 2006])

Papua has some of the world's largest tracts of rain forest, but like elsewhere in Indonesia, they are being ravaged by illegal logging. Scientists said last year that the Foja area was not under immediate threat, largely because it was so remote.

"It's comforting to know that there is a place on Earth so isolated that it remains the absolute realm of wild nature," said expedition leader Bruce Beehler, according to the press release.. "We were pleased to see that this little piece of Eden remains as pristine and enchanting as it was when we first visited."

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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