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Scientists Discover Dozens of 'New' Species In Remote Indonesian Jungle

An international team of scientists has found a "lost world" of previously unknown animals and plants in a remote and unexplored part of Indonesian New Guinea.

The Foja Mountains in Indonesia's Papua Province are home to one of the most pristine ecosystems in Asia, an area virtually untouched by man.

An international research team of Indonesians, Americans and Australians that explored the remote mountain jungles in the western part of the island of New Guinea in December could only reach the area by helicopter.

Most of the team was from the Indonesian Institute of Science and Conservation International, a U.S.-based environmental organization. They said they found dozens of previously unknown animal and plant species.

They include five species of palm tree, 20 species of frogs and four butterflies. The team also found a rare tree kangaroo, previously never seen in Indonesia.

The findings of the team will be published in scientific papers within the next few months, and then reviewed by peers. Only then can they officially be classified as new species.

The team seems confident that the finds will be confirmed as new, however. Yance de Fretes is a conservation biologist at Conservation International's Jakarta office. He says one of the team's most interesting finds was a bird with a bright orange patch on its face, the honeyeater.

"In terms of birds we discovered a new species, the honeyeater," said de Fretes. "This is the [first] discovery of a bird in New Guinea in 70 years. In 70 years, no one discovered any birds."

De Fretes says the team was overwhelmed by the rich diversity of the flora and fauna in the isolated rain forest. He says one of the scientists, a butterfly expert, said he had found more species during the two-week expedition than in his previous 30 years of research in New Guinea.

The scientists believe they have only scratched the surface, and they plan to return to the Fojas Mountains as soon as they can.