National Geographic : 2010 Jun
of clothes. It was a good thing too, because the torrential rain meant that even those with plenty of clothing spent much of their time with sodden shirts, damp pants, and squishy socks. e rain, of course, fuels the forest's rich life, manifested in part by lush mosses, ferns, and oth- er epiphytes---plants that grow on other plants--- covering tree trunks and limbs. High enough in elevation to be above malarial mosquitoes and known poisonous snakes, residents of the aptly named Bog Camp saw their major threat in fall- ing branches, as epiphytic vegetation soaked up water and stressed limbs, which cracked with the staccato of artillery re. Among the dozen or so tents at Bog Camp was a large yellow one that served as a make- shift laboratory, where expedition biologists preserved skins, skeletons, whole animals, and bits of tissue to be taken away for later study and DNA analysis. Here, Kristofer Helgen and Christopher Milensky of the Smithsonian In- stitution prepared, respectively, mammal and bird specimens, and Australian Paul Oliver worked on frogs and lizards. Ornithologist Ed Scholes of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithol- ogy carried video and audio recorders along forest paths, documenting rare birds of paradise. Botanist Asep Sadili of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, which cosponsored the expedition, collected plants from a study site near camp. Team members captured animals in various traps and nets and, in some instances, by hand (especially in the case of frogs found by head- lamp light on night walks). Many of the larger birds and mammals were brought in by men from a village in the Foja foothills who guided biolo- gists, helped with camp chores, and demonstrated time and again their near-magical knowledge of the ways of the forest. On the second day of the expedition, three of the hunters returned from a walk carrying a dwarf cassowary, freshly shot with bow and arrow. ough Milensky coveted the three-foot- tall bird, the local men had other ideas, and soon the air was lled with the smell of roasted casso- wary. Milensky salvaged the bones. As he labori- ously cleaned a femur, he declared, " is may be the rst wild-caught specimen for any museum in the past hundred years." Hunters presented Kris Helgen with other treasures: a tiny wallaby---"It could be the world's smallest true kangaroo," he said of the Middle of Nowhere The Foja expedition (map), in cooperation with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, gained access to the mountains from the land-owning Kwerba and Papasena villages. Locals guided scientists, sharing knowledge of flora and fauna. Pristine rain forest is home to the long-beaked echidna (right). Related to the platypus, this nocturnal worm-eater is the largest egg-laying mammal in the world. An echidna can weigh up to 36 pounds.