How is Charles Darwin seen in Malaysia

Vogel rediscovered in Indonesia after more than 170 years

Sometime in the 1840s, the German naturalist Carl Schwaner collected a gray-brown-black bird during an expedition in what was then East India. In 1850, the French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte described it as a black-browed mouse thrush(Malacocincla perspicillata) and then put it in a museum collection. After that, the bird was no longer seen in nature. Until now the two Indonesian villagers Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan in the province of South Kalimantan caught it, took photos and reported their find to local bird watching groups because they did not know the species. The ornithologist Panji Gusti Akbar describes this rediscovery in the magazine »Birding Asia«.

For decades it was even unclear where the bird originally came from; many ornithologists suspected that the species came from Java. In 1895, the Swiss ornithologist Johann Büttikofer pointed out that swans were in Borneo when they were caught. The new find finally confirms that the species is found there. It also shows that the animals look a little different from what the museum specimen suggests: the color of the iris, beak and feet had faded in the collection or a wrongly colored glass eye was used.

"It's a bit sobering to think that Charles Darwin hadn't yet published his" Origin of Species "and that the pigeon was still the most common bird in the world when the black-browed mousebird was first and last seen," says Ding Li Yong from BirdLife Asia. However, the species must be considered threatened, since large areas of rainforests are being cut down for oil palm plantations in this part of Borneo.

The find also shows how poorly researched the bird life of the Indonesian archipelago is. Many areas have not yet been systematically investigated. This is also proven by a publication from 2020, in which several new species from different islands in Indonesia were described. "It is astonishing that we made one of the most remarkable zoological discoveries in Indonesia or even Asia, although most of the time we were only able to vote online because of the corona restrictions," says co-author Teguh Willy Nugroho from Sebangau National Park in Kalimantan. As soon as conditions allow, the scientists plan to visit the region to learn more about the species.