Meet Your Neighbours contributor Joris van Alphen has just embarked on an incredible expedition to document the wildlife found on Borneo’s mysterious Mt. Kinabalu. Van Alphen, who calls the Netherlands home, is on assignment with National Geographic Netherlands/Belgium to cover the historic expedition, which is primarily comprised of scientists from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Sabah Parks.
The main mission of the expedition will be to answer the question of whether or not Borneo is a “Hotbed or Storehouse of Evolution.” From Joris’ blog:
“In 2007, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei pledged to protect the mountainous and inaccessible heartland of Borneo. The literal pinnacle of the Heart of Borneo’s biodiversity is Mount Kinabalu, with 4,095 m the tallest peak in Southeast Asia. The mountain is—geologically speaking—young (only 1.5 million years), but its biological wealth is unique: thousands of species occur only there and nowhere else on earth.
The origins of these “endemic” species have been a mystery: are they young, recent evolutionary offshoots from the species that live in the lowlands? or perhaps relicts from times when Borneo was much cooler? In other words: is the mountain a biodiversity hotbed or rather an evolution’s storehouse?
To solve this question, this year (10-25 September) a team of 40 scientists from Malaysia’s Sabah Parks and The Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis (NCB Naturalis) will go on an expedition. First, they will sample animals, plants, and fungi on Mount Kinabalu and in the surrounding Crocker Range. Then, the high-throughput DNA analysis lab at NCB Naturalis will then be used to try to crack the mountain’s mystery.
The results will provide important information to the conservation agencies in the three countries: finally they will know how evolution shaped that unique biodiversity that lives within the boundaries of the Heart of Borneo.”
Now, some of you may wondering why MYN is interested in this expedition when our mission to help people connect with the wildlife in their own community. Again, Joris explains…
“I look forward to photographing my own Neighbours in the Netherlands and the French Thiérache, which has become a bit of a second home to me. But this is where I’m going to undermine my message about “biodiversity begins at home” a little bit, because the first real work I’m doing on this project will be in Borneo. The expedition I’m going on is the perfect opportunity for it. There is currently no one in Borneo working on the Meet Your Neighbours project and I think these kind of images could be useful to a variety of conservation programs there. What’s more, I will be in the unique opportunity of traveling with forty of the world’s foremost experts on just about anything that lives on Mount Kinabalu. I’ll get a chance to photograph many species I wouldn’t be able to find by myself, without specialist knowledge of the area.”
The images that we’ve received so far are nothing short of spectacular. We’ll keep you updated as the expedition progresses. In the meantime, please bookmark Joris van Alphen’s blog for his own updates. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what type of gear Joris is carrying into the field to create the MYN images, see the photo below. For a detail description of the gear visit this link. A very special thanks as well to sponsor Redged for supplying Joris with much of the gear shown below.