Latest update from George!

Rhacophorus norhayatii (C) George Madani

“I have been keeping busy with ongoing fieldwork on an assortment of projects, frogs of course taking precedence. And in fact I have only just returned from Borneo! My word, what an incredible place!! I was there for a month and being across the Wallace line was both a thrill and a challenge!

 

Everything was new and to be perfectly honest the staggering diversity, the unfamiliarity of EVERYTHING and the dozens and dozens of gleaming pairs of eyeshine in the beam of my headlamp requiring investigation was almost overwhelming!! In the end I saw over 50 species of frog which amounts to about a third of the islands frog fauna. There were tree climbing toads, strange horned toads, puddle frogs that lived and bred in the footprints of elephants, guardian frogs that carry their tadpoles on their back and of course the classic and exceptional flying frogs!!!

Colugo (Flying Lemur) Cyanocephalus variegates, with young (c) George Madani

Then there were all the birds and mammals and reptiles!!! Obscure and wonderful creatures you read about as a child with only the faintest hopes of one day glimpsing in the wild. All manner of wildlife superbly adapted to living in the canopy, their bodies modified, contorted and stretched so that they never need come to ground. Flying frogs, dragons, geckos, snakes and the plethora of flying squirrels both giant and small! I even managed to spot a pygmy flying squirrel species which is only known from the type specimen!! Other animals were just down right weird. Arcane scaly pangolins, nocturnal primates of ancient lineage and the highly distinctive and unique colugo! Also known as the flying lemur (its not), there are only two extant representatives in the entire order Dermoptera!!!

The absolute highlight however came so unexpectedly on the last night in the form of a rattling woodpecker type call emitted from high above a pond formed in the hole left by an overturned tree. With very distinctive and tempting froggy eyeshine reflected from 10m high, I was lured up a slippery jungle tree entangled in vines and up into the canopy to claim my prize. The branches got thinner as the awareness of my body weight became more apparent and there it was so close yet so far, an elusive flying frog!! In desperation I began throwing the nuts growing on the tree at the frog when one struck nearby and suddenly with grace and ease my little friend outstretched the dazzling and brightly coloured webbing between its fingers and toes and aimed for land. I have never descended a tree faster. What at first I thought was the rare and seldom seen in Borneo, Rhacophorus reinwardtii turned out to be (with some follow up research) Rhacophorus norhayatii!! This species was split from R. reinwardtii and described formally in 2010. The most exciting thing however is that R.norhayatii is only described from peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand and here it was in Borneo!! A first!!

Borneo is definetly a place I would recommend to any naturalist. My travels were limited to Malaysian North Borneo and I found the people to be very friendly and obliging and getting around was fairly straightforward. Fortunately there are also still many reserves and protected areas of jungle too. You should go!”

George Madani, June 2012.

 

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GEORGE: Water-holding frogs         GEORGE: Kimberly update           Alive in Asia

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