Jakarta- A Greenpeace Belgium campaigner and ornithologist, together with researchers from the University of Singapore and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, have described a new species of bird on Rote Island, Indonesia.

The Rote myzomela (Myzomela irianawidodoae) belongs to the colourful honeyeater family and is named after the First Lady of Indonesia, Iriana Joko Widodo.The team’s findings were published in the Indonesian scientific journal, Treubia, in December 2017.[1]


New Bird Species Discovered in Indonesia. © Greenpeace / Filip Verbelen

The Rote myzomela (Myzomela irianawidodoae), has been described as a new species in December 2017.

“Indonesia has over 1500 species of birds and new birds are still being discovered every year. In the past, hardly any birdwatchers visited Rote Island because no endemic bird species were known to live there,” saidGreenpeace campaigner Philippe Verbelen, who undertook fieldwork on the island that led to this discovery.

“Most bird species have a distinctive song that is unique to that species. Only a handful of new bird species are identified every year. Getting them this proper scientific recognition is hugely rewarding for any birdwatcher,” said Verbelen.

Indonesian forests are threatened by industrial and agricultural development [2] and the Rote Island landscape is no exception. The habitat of this new honeyeater species is at risk and needs protection.

“I hope the discovery of this new bird will remind people that these forests are critical to the survival not only of birds like this new honeyeater but also tigers, orangutans and other wildlife yet undocumented. Authorities in Jakarta should take note and strengthen efforts  to protect and conserve Rote Island and other remaining forests in Indonesia,” said Verbelen.

In 2009, nearly 20 years after the bird was first observed by the Australian ornithologist Ron Johnstone, Verbelen visited Rote Island as part of a larger project to study owl vocalisations in Indonesia.

He photographed the myzomela birds on the island and extensively recorded their song and call. He realised that their song was significantly different to that of the myzomelas on neighbouring Indonesian islands and Australia. [3]

Verbelen returned to Indonesia in 2014 for further field trips to Rote and Sumba islands. He collected more sound recordings of the birds on both islands to check the hypothesis that despite its similar appearance, the Rote Island bird was likely to be a new species.

The new species was scientifically documented by researchers from the University of Singapore and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), who went to Rote Island in December 2015.

Notes to Editors:

[1] http://e-journal.biologi.lipi.go.id/index.php/treubia/index. Full report here.

[2] ‘The palm oil industry promises reform, but there’s still no sign of change’

[3] Myzomela dammermani – (Sumba Myzomela) and Myzomela vulnerata (Timor Myzomela)  and the Red-headed Myzomela (Myzomela erythrocephala) which lives in mainland Australia.

Photos and video footage available HERE

Click here for more information on Greenpeace South East Asia’s Save our Sounds project, and to hear “The Birds of Paradise,” Greenpeace’s unique collaboration with Indonesian musician, DJ Ninda Felina.


Sol Gosetti, Media Coordinator, Greenpeace Southeast Asia: [email protected]  phone: +447807352020