Discovery chameleon-like snake
In Borneo, a snake has been discovered that can change colour spontaneously. The snake has been named Kapuas mud snake. This new species of snakes was discovered in the rainforest in the so called 'Heart of Borneo'. This is a mountainous area of about
220.000 square kilometre in size. Here, the rainforest is relatively unaffected. According to the WWF, it is one of the most important treasure chambers of the nature, worldwide.
This ability of the snake to change colour is known from some reptiles, such as the chameleon, but scientists have seen it very rarely with snakes and have not yet understood this phenomenon. The discoverer of the snake is Dr Mark Auliya, reptile expert at the 'Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig' in Germany. Dr Auliya is also a consultant of WWF.
'I put the reddish-brown snake in a dark bucket. When I retrieved it a few minutes later, it was almost entirely white,' said Dr Mark Auliya. Dr Auliya collected two specimens of the half-metre long poisonous snake in the wetlands and swamped forests around the Kapuas river in the Betung Kerihun National Park, an area in Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo). The scientists named it the Kapuas mud snake.
The genus Enhydris, to which the new snake belongs, is composed of 22 species, only two of which are widespread. All the others have a very restricted range. The scientists believe this newly discovered snake might only occur in the Kapuas River drainage system.
In the last ten years, 361 new animal and plants species have been discovered on the island of Borneo: 260 insects, fifty plants, thirty freshwater fishes, seven frogs, six lizards, five crabs, two snakes, and a toad. Many discoveries have not yet found their way into the scientific literature. This is therefore a careful estimation. Several animal groups, such as bats and other nocturnal animals are also not well studies yet. The discovery of new species, however, amounts to three new species a month in an area seventeen times the size of the Netherlands.
According to Miriam van Gool of the WNF, Borneo harvests a remarkable number of endemic (species which live only in a certain area) plants (around 6000), birds (39), mammals (44), and fish (160).
Such a richness in species is not only good for nature. People can also profit from the many forest products and services of such an area, for example through sustainable tourism. But at the moment, the island lies under severe pressure from deforestation, as well as the exploit of palm oil also for the western market. If we do not pay attention, unique animal species will become extinct, even before we have been able to discover them!
But there is also hope that this trend could be halted as the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei recently launched the Heart of Borneo initiative, which aims to preserve approximately 220,000km2 of equatorial forests and numerous wildlife species.