The Nature of Sulawesi: Guided Tour 3-20 August 2013

17 September 2013

During our epic 3-week traverse of Sulawesi and Halmahera the group bravely faced bloodsucking leeches, overgrown trails, and several flooded rivers, but were well rewarded with some incredible sightings of rare flora & fauna. Some highlights of the trip included: close encounters with tarsiers and macaques in Tangkoko, a very rare sighting of a Lowland Anoa, and reaching the summit ridge of Gunung Lumut after several days of hiking to find the remarkable pitcher plant Nepenthes hamata.

A selection of images from the trip:

Macaca nigra nigraNepenthes hamataEurystomus azureusBabyrousa celebensis
Agalmyla sp.Gehyra marginataLitoria sp.Gunung Kiematabu
Nepenthes eymaeLitoria infrafrenata infrafrenataTodiramphus diopsXylotrupes ulysses clinias
Nepenthes glabrataBabalus depressicornisThe Nature of Sulawesi guided tour 2013Turacoena manadensis

Additional photos from the trip can be found at Rainforest Expeditions with Chien Lee on Facebook.

A new tour to Sulawesi has been scheduled for February-March 2014. Please inquire for further details.

New Species of Bornean Slow Loris

15 December 2012

The sight of a Slow Loris (Nycticebus menagensis) staring down at you from the rainforest canopy, its eyes brightly illuminated by your headlamp, is always an exciting find. It was only three weeks ago, whilst I was on a nocturnal foray with a group of photographers in the jungles bordering Sarawak and Kalimantan, that I had my most recent encounter with a loris. Unfortunately, these nocturnal primates are nowhere abundant and sightings of them uncommon at best, due in part to patchy distributions and also sadly, capture for the pet trade.

A new paper in American Journal of Primatology presents a dramatic new view of the loris diversity in Borneo. Previously, three subspecies of loris were known from the island: N. m. bancanus, N. m. borneanus, and N. m. menagensis, which differed from each other in fur coloration and body size. However, taking into account other recent findings in loris diversity, the reseachers of the present paper undertook a thorough investigation on the variation of Bornean lorises, which had never been studied in great detail.

After critically examining a number of museum specimens and carefuly comparing their morphology and corresponding geographic locations, they concluded that there were not three, but four distinct loris types on Borneo, and went further to elevate each of these to its own species status. Thus the presently recognized species now include: N. bancanus, N. borneanus, N. menagensis, and the new N. kayan.

Several months ago I received an email from Dr. Anna Nekaris, who heads The Little Fireface Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to loris research and conservation. She pointed out that one of the animals which I had photographed in Sarawak several years ago represented the newly described Nycticebus kayan (pictured below). Specifically, the Kayan Loris can be distinguished from other Bornean lorises by a combination of features including its highly contrasting and distinctive face mask.

Nycticebus kayan

Like all lorises, the Kayan Loris is primarily nocturnal and feeds on a variety of insects and soft fruits. Lorises are also unique among primates in that they possess a venomous bite which is used in self-defense. The bite can cause fever, pain, and swelling, and in people who happen to be allergic the results may even be fatal. One Sarawakian who I met in Mulu National Park, had to be hospitalized for several days after being bitten when handling a wild loris.

Although more research, including genetic studies, remains to be done on Bornean lorises, the new discovery helps not only to shed light on the variations of these nocturnal primates, but also is a testament to the amazing diversity which is continuing to be revealed within Southeast Asian rainforests.


R. Munds, S. Ford, K.A.I. Nekaris. Taxonomy of the Bornean Slow Loris, with New Species Nycticbus kayan (Priamtes Lorisdae). American Journal of Primatology, December 2012; DOI: 10.

Borneo Rainbow Toad Rediscovered

10 July 2012

This time last year Borneo’s amazing biodiversity again made widespread news with the rediscovery of the long lost Borneo Rainbow Toad. In July 2011 researchers from the University of Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) led by herpetologist Dr. Indraneil Das made an extraordinary find in the mountains of western Sarawak. Three small amphibians were observed in the branches of a tree, and upon close inspection these were revealed to be none other than Ansonia latidisca, a species which had not been seen since 1924.

Measuring up to 5 cm in length, this toad is one of the largest and certainly most colorful in the genus Ansonia. Although the dorsum is richly patterned with green, yellow, purple, and brown with red-tupped warts, the general appearance is somewhat “mossy” and this may serve to camouflage the animal from potential predators.

The rediscovery of this species brings some much-needed hope in the face of ever-increasing worldwide amphibian extinctions, particularly as Conservation International had previously listed the Borneo Rainbow Toad as one of the “world’s top 10 most wanted frogs” in their Global Search for Lost Frogs in 2010. Nevertheless, amphibians remain the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet, with severe threats coming from habitat loss, climate change, and the dreaded chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis).

Photographs are still scarce of this elusive species, and little is known of its life cycle, behavior, or remaining popultion.

Ansonia latidisca

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