New species of mammal 'uncovered in Papua New Guinea' forest, scientists say

The small dog-sized dorcopsulus wallaby was discovered along with other unknown "bandicoots and rodents"

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The Independent Online

Australian scientists say they have uncovered a number of previously unknown mammal species in Papua New Guinea, including a new dog-sized wallaby.

After crowdfunding the money for the study’s expenses, Euan Ritchie, an ecologist and researcher at Deakin University in Melbourne, installed 40 camera traps in the Torricelli mountain range.

Nestled in the north-west of Papua New Guinea, the mountain range is home to some of the most endangered mammals in the world, including the Dendrolagus Scottae (Tenkile), which he says there’s “there's likely to be more than five times as many giant pandas than tenkiles in the world.”

While also capturing images of these critically endangered special, they also stumbled across what they say were previously unknown animals.

“We certainly got an image of what we think is a new species of sort of small kangaroo, dorcopsulus wallaby. Think small dog-size wallaby if you like,” Mr Ritchie told ABC.

“There's also things like bandicoots and rodents that don't appear to be in any of the books that we know about.”

The team will have to return to the area to catch the animals, take measurements and DNA samples – but the process will be a long one.

“There's a whole range, probably hundreds and hundreds of species, not just in mammals but the birds, the insects, all sorts of species that are probably unknown to western science,” he added.

“We've really got to preserve those habitats because they're really valuable.”

Mr Ritchie had partnered with the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) in the project, an organisation which aims to establish the mountain range as a conservation area to prevent “commercial logging and mining” as well as hunting of Tenkiles and Weimangs (Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroos) by villagers.

They currently have roughly 50 villages signed up to its hunting moratorium.

He confirmed to The Independent that the animals have not been formally classified yet.

“We will continue to survey the many unsurveyed mountain tops in the region, as well as repeat surveys of some through time to examine potential impacts of climate change.”

The researchers also managed to take pictures of the Hooded Pitohoui, "the only poisonous bird in the world. If you eat it or touch it you will react to the toxins in the skin of this bird but [it's] not life threatening,' Jim Thomas from the TCA said.

The Tenkile Tree Kangaroo numbered just 100 in 2003 - that has now doubled with the TCA's efforts, they say.