Thursday, June 27, 2013

New bird species from a most unklikely place

Sometimes, Westerners may wonder whether there's a living thing left in Cambodia, home of the Killing Fields.  There are, fortunately, both people and animals coming back from that cataclysm, but great damage was done to the land as well as the population.  Cambodia is the main home of the kouprey, the last really huge (up to 900kg) completely new species of land animal discovered. (It made its scientific debut in 1937.  Today, though, it may be extinct.  

That there are undiscovered species in Cambodia, then, is a bit surprising, To find a new species of bird in the teeming (1.5 million residents) capitol, Phnom Penh, seems ridiculous.  And yet, here it is, the the Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), first spotted in in 2009 and now formally described, a little gray bird with an orange cap, clinging to life in tiny fragments of foliage within the city.  Obviously, people had seen it before, but no one who had the training or opportunity to describe it.  

Maybe it's a good sign in this ravaged land.

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