The Cycloops Mountains are an isolated mountain range on the northern side of the biodiversity-rich island of New Guinea.
The Rhododendron flora of the mountains has been studied since the 19thC, but was not intensively surveyed until the 1960s. Currently there are 7 known species of Rhododendron in the range, including the charismatic Rhododendron leucogigas.
The survey was conducted by the Regional Innovation and Research Agency of Jayapura Regency; Yasper M. Mambrasar from National Research and Innovation Agency and Wendy A. Mustaqim from Universitas Samudra are researching Indonesian Rhododendron and are members of the GCC Rhododendron. The survey’s aim was to relocate species not seen for some time and document the health of the habitats. The team are also working with the local Ormu people to promote Rhododendron as a ornamental plant. Together with the Papua Natural Resource and Conservation Agency, Rhododendron will be promoted to stakeholders and as a focus plant group during the development of Ormu ecotourism village project.
The survey was challenging and due to unfavourable weather conditions only a lower elevation survey was conducted. The team only reached about 1400 m asl, which is around 600 m lower than the highest point of Cycloop Mountains, the Raveni Summit.
The team found the very common Rhododendron zoelleri (LC)and relocated the ‘lost’ Rhododendron leucogigas (DD), alongside Rhododendron dianthosmum (VU). Excitingly they found a red-flowered Rhododendron, that may represent an new Rhododendron macgregorii natural hybrid. All Rhododendron were found in relatively safe habitats as the Ormu people protect the forest that they grow in.
They data gathered will contribute to revised Red List assessments for these species that are still based on the 2011 Red list of Rhododendron and the team have been invited back to share their findings with the Ormu community.
The survey was funded by the Regional Research and Innovation Agency of Jayapura Regency, Papua Province, Indonesia.