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Malaysia | Scientists want BR status for pristine forest tract that has yielded several new species

In a first-of-its-kind expedition, a team of more than 100 scientists and students have surveyed the largely unexplored Penang Hill in the Malaysian state of Penang. The landscape of rolling hills is covered by a large expanse of old-growth tropical hardwood trees and lies just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from George Town, the state capital. Yet remarkably the 130-million-year-old rainforest is believed to have never been cut before.

Over a span of two weeks last October, a 117-member team climbed tall trees, searched the forest floor and scoured the dark, mysterious depths of caves to discover a treasure trove of animals and plants. They recorded more than 1,400 species, including four likely new to science — a scorpion, a fly, a bacterium and a water bear — and at least 25 species of plants and animals that were recorded in Penang Hill for the very first time. For the expedition, researchers from the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) partnered with The Habitat, an ecotourism facility on Penang, as well as scientists from the University of Science Malaysia (Universiti Sains Malaysia or USM) and local students.