updated 12/23/2004 8:06:31 AM ET 2004-12-23T13:06:31

A team of international scientists have found new fish and insect species, including a monster cockroach, living in caves in Indonesia's remote East Kalimantan province, the group announced Wednesday.

Led by the U.S.-based organization The Nature Conservancy, the team said the area where the new species were discovered was threatened by environmental degradation, and called for the government to protect it immediately.

"In just five weeks, the expedition team discovered numerous new species previously unknown to science.  Who knows what else is out there?" said Scott Stanley, the conservancy's program manager for East Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo Island.  "If something is not done soon to protect these areas, dozens of species could disappear before anyone knew they ever existed."

The team surveyed four cave systems in the Sangkulirang Peninsula of East Kalimantan, about 746 miles northwest of the capital Jakarta.  "This area appears to have the largest number of endemic species of any ecosystem on Borneo," he said.

The group discovered at least five new insect species, including a "monster cockroach," a "micro-crab," and a giant millipede. 

It also discovered several fish species, two new snail species and a number of new plants, Stanley said in a statement.

Scientists from five countries, including the United States and Indonesia, explored the caves from July to September this year.

"The team's discovery of such a wide variety of plants and animals ... shows the critical need to protect this area from the growing threats of logging, mining and fire," said Stanley.

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