New species confirmed on Denniston plateau

By Greymouth Star staff

File photo / thinkstock
File photo / thinkstock

Two months after scientists scoured the Denniston Plateau on their hands and knees to find new species, they say the first results have proved conclusively that there are previously unidentified species where Perth-based Bathurst Resources wants to mine for coal.

Forest and Bird, which organised the 'bio blitz' in March, is trying to stop the mine through the Environment Court.

A 150-strong team of volunteers thought at the time they had found new species, and the first couple, small invertebrates, have now been confirmed.

Forest and Bird top of the south field officer Debs Martin said a competition would be launched soon to name one of them.

However, she said the scientists were excited by more than the new species, including the numbers and habitats of the wildlife living on the plateau.

"One weta up there burrows into the ground, not trees."

The experts found about 500 species, but the process to decide which are new, and to formally name them, can take months or even years.

Ms Martin said most of the wildlife had been found elsewhere, but finding them at Denniston, which was not their usual habitat, was interesting. A nationally endangered lichen had also been found.

In March, immediately after the bio blitz, the list of finds included an unusual gecko, which looked like the nationally endangered forest gecko previously known only on the Open Bay Islands, off Haast. It also included the rare Helm's butterfly, and velvet worms.

The scientific team included Ghosts of Gondwana author and retired entomologist, George Gibbs.

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