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Friday, March 6, 2009

New species of Rafflesia discovered

Rhizanthes 1.jpg

A new species of Rafflesia found - Rhizanthes Jambulipa.
Photo: Courtesy of Prof Dr Kamaruddin Mat-Salleh

A new species of Rafflesia was discovered during a scientific expedition to the eastern part of the Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in June last year.
The new find has been named Rhizanthes Jambulipa.

Dato Haji Mohamed Abdul Majid, the Organising Chairman of the 2-day seminar Biodiversity of Eastern Lanjak Entimau: Hidden Jewel of Sarawak, said a lot of discoveries and findings were made during the June 16 to 29 expedition.
The most unusual finding, he said, was the discovery of Rhizanthes Jambulipa, which belongs to a family related to the Rafflesia.

“It is a very large flower. It is very unusual. When it opens up, it smells like rotten corpse, so it attracts flies which help to spread the pollen. Such a plant has ecotourism potential,” he said.

Host plants

Mohamed told reporters yesterday that the plant, which has a diameter of 60cm or 2 feet, was rare.
“It is a parasite that lives on the roots of other plants, sucking the nutrients out of the parent plants. If the parent plants on which it feeds on are killed, it will die as well. Their host plants are like that of Rafflesia,” said Mohamed.

Also present at the press conference was Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, Haji Mohamad Naroden Haji Majais, and Director of the Forestry Department, Datuk Haji Len Talif Salleh.

On other discoveries, Mohamed said it included some new ginger species with colourful flowers.

“Borneo is among the 12 richest mega diversity centres, and one of the oldest forests in the world. It is also an isolated island. Hence, new discoveries and findings in the future can be expected,” he said.

Meanwhile, Len said lots of new discoveries of flora and fauna were made during the expedition but it had to be kept a secret for now as the findings had not been named yet.
Len stressed that the Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary spanned 160,000 hectares, and as such it was not possible to cover the whole area in a single expedition. Thus far, only 40% of the sanctuary had been explored.

He added that exploratory work and research into Lanjak Entimau was an on-going process and he would like to open it up to scientists and researchers from other countries in future. Past expeditions were confined to locals and scientists from Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and Germany.


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