New population of rare giant-mouse lemurs found in Madagascar

Mar 25, 2010
© Louise Jasper

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new population of rare giant mouse lemurs was discovered in southwestern Madagascar?s Ranobe forest, World Wildlife Fund said.

Last year during a night survey monitoring biodiversity along the gallery of Ranobe near Toliara while on a mission for WWF, Charlie Gardner, and Louise Jasper, came across a giant mouse-lemur (Mirza), foraging within fruiting Ficus spp.

Two species of Mirza are currently known; Mirza coquereli and M. zaza. Mirza coquereli (Coquerel's Mouse-lemur) is found in the southwestern spiny forest eco region, but has never been seen in this particular area before.

Coquerel's Mouse-lemurs are “near threatened” according to IUCN which means that they might qualify for vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered in the near future. Their trend is decreasing. The discovery of a new population is exciting as it raises hopes for the species’ survival.

The observed species from the Ranobe gallery forest, according to the researcher Charlie Gardner exhibits “significant differences in the coloration of its coat from the other two species. “

“The specimen that we observed appears to have a lighter dorsal coloration than is noted for M. coquereli, and has conspicuous reddish or rusty patches on the dorsal surface of the distal ends of both fore- and hind-limbs. The ventral pelage is also conspicuously light in color, and the animal possesses a strikingly red tail, also becoming darker at the end.”

“This is to suggest that it may not only be a new population, but a new species or subspecies”. However, Gardner says that the animal has to be trapped, examined and tested before it can be officially described as a new species.

These findings not only highlight the biological importance of the area, but also emphasise how little we know about these rapidly disappearing forests. Without the creation of new protected areas, we would risk losing species to extinction before they have even been discovered or described.

These animals, in turn, can attract tourism and conservation revenue to the site which can help local communities to find less destructive ways to meet their development needs.

This new population is not the first exciting discovery from Ranobe in recent years. In 2005, scientists described the rediscovery of Mungotictis decemlineata lineata, a subspecies of the narrow-striped mongoose that had not been observed since 1915, and which was only ever known from a single specimen. This subspecies may be entirely restricted to the new protected area.

The representative of the new Mirza population was discovered just outside the limits of the protected area. It highlights the critical need to extend the limits of this protected area.

This area PK32-Ranobe, which is co-managed by WWF and the inter-communal association MITOIMAFI, received temporary protection status in December 2008. However, due to the presence of mining concessions, the limits of the protected area did not extend to include the gallery forests of Ranobe.

“It is a hotspot of biodiversity clamped on almost all sides by mining concessions. WWF is currently applying for the extension of the PA to include more key habitats within the decree of definitive protection,“ Malika Virah-Sawmy, WWF’s Terrestrial Programme Coordinator in Madagascar said.

Every year, large areas of Ranobe forests are felled by charcoal sellers, and in the past, much of the region was granted for mining concessions for the various minerals deposited in its rich sand soils. Meagre crops of maize are also planted on the calcareous soils, after felling and burning the forests.

The new protected area is part of a new philosophy promoted by WWF for the Durban Vision which aims to triple the surface area of Madagascar protected areas. WWF aims to empower communities to co-manage PA and to find ways for communities to benefit economically protecting their environment.

Gardner’s research, based at the University of Kent, is focused on reconciling conservation and sustainable rural development within new . This research will inform the management of PK32-Ranobe, allowing the identification of win-win scenarios that benefit all stakeholders.

“We hope the area will not only represent the single most important conservation area within the Spiny forest, but also a place where communities are benefiting from conservation through ecotourism and other sustainable livelihoods”. says Virah-Sawmy.

Explore further: The world's first bat net for migrating bats is launched in Latvia

Provided by World Wildlife Fund

4.3 /5 (4 votes)

Related Stories

Scientists find endangered grey-shanked doucs in Vietnam

Jul 02, 2007

A team of scientists from WWF and Conservation International (CI) has discovered the world’s largest known population of grey-shanked doucs (Pygathrix cinerea), increasing chances that the endangered monkey can be saved ...

Lost forest yields several new species

Aug 07, 2007

An expedition led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to a remote corner of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has uncovered unique forests which, so far, have been found to contain six animal ...

New animal and plant species found in Vietnam

Sep 26, 2007

World Wildlife Fund scientists said today that the discovery of 11 new animal and plant species in a remote area in central Vietnam underscores the importance of conservation efforts in the ancient tropical forests of the ...

WWF: 52 New Species Discovered on Borneo

Dec 19, 2006

Scientists have discovered at least 52 new species of animals and plants this past year on the island of Borneo. The discoveries, described in a new WWF report, include 30 unique fish species, two tree frog species, 16 ginger ...

Recommended for you

France fights back Asian hornet invader

52 minutes ago

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

Tide turns for shark fin in China

1 hour ago

A sprawling market floor in Guangzhou was once a prime location for shark fin, one of China's most expensive delicacies. But now it lies deserted, thanks to a ban from official banquet tables and a celebrity-driven ...

Manatees could lose their endangered species status

13 hours ago

About 2,500 manatees have perished in Florida over the last four years, heightening tension between conservationists and property owners as federal officials prepare to decide whether to down-list the creature to threatened ...

User comments : 0