This volume is the fifth in a series of Taxonomic Guides to the Stick Insects of South East Asia and the eighth book on stick insects by the author. It is the third volume to report on the stick insects of Borneo. This book follows the concept of the first four volumes by the author in this series. The present account is once again lavishly illustrated with beautiful colour photographs of the relevant species of stick insects being discussed in the book.
A Taxonomic Guide to Stick Insects of Borneo (2016) listed 337 Bornean species or subspecies of which five new subgenera, 15 new genera and 52 new species were described. Together with these were five subspecies, seven species, two genera with revised statuses, one generic synonym, 19 specific synonyms, 46 new combination names for Bornean taxa. A Taxonomic Guide to Stick Insects of Borneo, Volume 2 (2017) listed 373 Bornean species or subspecies from 92 genera of which there were four new genera with 37 new species. In addition there were four new combinations names, three new synonyms. This latest volume lists 369 currently recognised Bornean species or subspecies, with 14 new species or subspecies. There are 12 new synonyms, 11 new nomenclatural combinations, six nominate subspecies, 11 lectotypes designated, one neotype designated and nine revised statuses.
Even with the description of additional species, there has been a decrease in the number of Bornean species. This is because quite a number of synonyms were encountered during the course of this study. Many species of stick insects have been repeatedly described as new; therefore some names have had to be reduced to synonymy. Furthermore, some species were found during this survey to have been misidentified and are not of Bornean origin. These taxa are therefore removed from the Bornean list.
Professor Francis Seow-Choen MBBS, FRCSE, FAMS, FRES has been interested in natural history for as long as he can remember. Much of his childhood was spent catching insects in his garden and fishing in ponds in his neighbourhood. These riled his father, although his mother very much encouraged him in these activities. Francis Seow-Choen also spent most of his weekends during his schooldays either in the library looking up identification guides and other books on all sorts of animals, or in the Raffles Museum of Natural History or the Johor Zoo looking at and drawing animals. His principal interests then were fish, birds, chelonians and other reptiles. His interest in stick insects was piqued by a species known as Eurycnema versirubra (Serville 1838) which he kept in the late 1960s.
Information on this group of stick insects was not accessible to him in those days. A book on the wildlife of Singapore claimed that Eurycnema versirubra (Serville 1838) hailed from the desert oasis of the Middle East. As a result, his interest got nowhere. A trip to Tasik Chini with the Malaysian Nature Society in the early 1990s resulted in encounters with many species of stick insects. As none could be identified, Francis Seow-Choen sought out specialists from the Department of Zoology at the National University of Singapore as well as members of the Phasmid Study Group based in the United Kingdom. These collaborations and friendships resulted in a deepening interest and understanding of stick insects.
Francis Seow-Choen is an internationally known colorectal surgeon in private practice in Singapore. He was awarded the Excellence for Singapore 2000 Gold Medal for his outstanding contribution to international colorectal surgery. He is frequently invited around the world to lecture on the science and art of colorectal surgery. However, in spite of his commitment to the hectic life of surgery, he still finds time to pursue his passion for stick insects. He has numerous often cited publications on both colorectal surgery and stick insects. Francis Seow-Choen and three other authors were awarded the JO Westwood Medal for Excellence in Taxonomy by the European Congress of Entomology and the Royal Society of Entomology in 2018.