Final Frontier: Newly Discovered species of New Guinea (1998 - 2008) shows that 218 new kinds of plants, 43 reptiles and 12 mammals, including a unique snub-fin dolphin, 580 invertebrates, 134 amphibians, 2 birds and 71 fish, among them an extremely rare 2.5m long river shark, have been found on the tropical island over a ten year period.
This report shows that New Guinea's forests and rivers are among the richest in the world. But it also shows us that unchecked human demand can push even the wealthiest environments to bankruptcy," says Dr. Neil Stronach, WWF Western Melanesia's Program Representative.
New Guinea is the largest tropical island on Earth and is divided between the countries of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the East and Indonesia in the West. It contains the third largest tract of rainforest in the world after the Amazon and the Congo. The island covers less than 0.5 per cent of the Earth's landmass but shelters 6 to 8 per cent of the world's species. An estimated two-thirds of these species are unique to New Guinea.
"If you look at New Guinea in terms of biological diversity, it is much more like a continent than an island," says Dr. Stronach. "Scientists found an average of two new species each week from 1998 - 2008 - something nearly unheard of in this day and age," he says.
"Despite its remote location, New Guinea's natural habitats are being lost at an alarming rate. The island's forests are facing serious threats including logging, mining, wildlife trade and conversion to agriculture, particularly oil palm," said Dr Susanne Schmitt, New Guinea Programme Manager at WWF-UK. "As a region with high rates of poverty, it is absolutely essential that New Guinea's precious reefs, rainforests, and wetlands are not plundered but managed sustainably for future generations".
In PNG between 1972 and 2002, independent studies have shown that 24 per cent of rainforests were cleared or degraded through logging or subsistence agriculture. Increasingly, demand for palm oil is also destroying many of New Guinea's most valuable rainforests. Large forest areas on the island (and across the region) are being cleared for oil palm monocultures, destroying critical habitat for many endangered species.
The destruction of these forests, which are usually cleared by burning, releases huge amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and accelerates climate change. However, many oil palm producers in New Guinea and around the world are pursing certification through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO. Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) guarantees that social and environmental safeguards have been met during production. And importantly, CSPO also assures that high conservation value forests haven't been cleared.
Notes to Editors
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Facts, figures and other information on New Guinea
Short film: Astonish Me
To celebrate our 50th anniversary, a short film by acclaimed writer Stephen Poliakoff will bring the full brilliance of some of world's species, including those from Papua New Guinea, to the big screen. 'Astonish Me' showcases some of the extraordinary species recently found around the world and will be screened exclusively in Odeon cinemas across the UK this summer. Find out more about the film at wwf.org.uk/astonishme.
And for a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to California and learn about species, enter our 'Oddest one out' photo competition at wwf.org.uk/astonishmecompetition
For more information please contact
Johannah Sargent, Senior Press Officer, WWF UK,
+44 1483 412375,
+44 7867 697 519,