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It all started back in our old village when my dad got us excited about collecting butterflies. Later, once we moved up to our current village location, the collecting rate skyrocketed. We were collecting thousands of butterflies and moths. Then we started to collect weevils, stick insects, click bugs, long horned beetles, and so on. I loved collecting all types of bugs and I still do, but one evening around midnight, my focus changed a little.
I was awakened by the sound of Pu, Dad, Ira (Pu's mom), and Minat excitedly talking in the jungle, not too far off. I got out of bed, got dressed, and saw my mom standing by the door looking out the window. When I walked up she told me they had found a cuscus. I found a flashlight and quickly ran into the jungle after my dad and the others.
To make a long story short, we successfully hunted and killed the cuscus. I skinned it and then Pu took it home to eat (cuscus is a rare and much liked meat). Many of the people of the tribe get a large portion of their protein intake from subsistence hunting, so they are often alert for potential food sources. After that night I realized I wanted to start collecting larger, more difficult prey than insects.
I had already started to observe birds and soon started collecting them so that I could stuff and preserve them. At that time it was the beginning of 2013, and since then I have collected almost every type of bird here in our hamlet. I also have lots of skins from larger animals, their skulls, and a few reptiles. Because my bird collection is almost complete, my focus has recently changed to photographing the birds’ nests and catching mice.
I learned from Pu how to make a mouse trap used in our area; I call it a snap-trap. A snap-trap is made totally out of jungle resources, which works really well, because the jungle mice are alien to inorganic material. All the rattraps I get sent in from the coastal town rarely catch anything.
The other day Pu caught a little mouse, and when I saw it I immediately recognized it as a tree mouse. It’s a really cute type of mouse with unique features compared to the other mice I have collected. Tree mouse is the generic name for this type of mouse, but there are several different species within the family. I looked up this new catch in a book written by Tim Flannery to find its full name. There were only a couple species of the tree mice and after further reading I found that tree mice have only been collected in the Huon Peninsula, which is about half the island's length away from where we live. I was very excited, because there is a chance it is a new species, especially because of the distance between the other known species.
To discover a new species has been one of the main reasons I started this collection. We have already discovered several new species of moths, weevils, water beetles, and potentially one subspecies of butterfly. All these discoveries are super exciting, but they are just insects. I have been hoping to find a new species of mice! I have sent an email to a scientist I am in contact with who is a mammal specialist. I am still anxiously waiting his reply! I will let you know what I find out . . . .
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