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600 New Species in Madagascar Are Already Threatened (VIDEO)

600 New Species in Madagascar Are Already Threatened (VIDEO)

A report, Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar, from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF ) says that an astounding 600 new species have been discovered in just the past decade there, while also emphasizing the threat to the island’s diversity due to recent political and economic turmoil. The new species include 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals, as described by the WWF:

  • Berthe’s mouse lemur — discovered in 2000, it’s the world’s smallest primate. It weighs 30 grams, and its body is just 10cm long.
  • Tahina palm — this massive fan palm flowers only once in a lifetime, producing a spectacular, giant cluster of flowers
  • Komac’s golden orb spider — the first spider of its kind discovered since 1879, and the largest to date, it spins huge webs of golden silk, often more than a metre wide.
  • a new colour-changing gecko — usually brown like the bark of a tree, this lizard can quickly change to bright blue during courtship.

In the Guardian, Mark Wright, conservation science adviser at WWF-UK, notes that Madagascar’s isolation that has led to such a plethora of species:

“It split from Africa a long time ago and then subsequently split from the Indian block 80m years ago. It has had 80m years for evolution to have a bit of fun,” said Wright. “It is a very odd island. In terms of its geography, it helps speciation. There’s a mountain ridge down the middle, so on the east of the island you’ve got rainforest, but everything on the west is a rain shadow. So you get an enormous variety of environments from the very wet to the very dry. It’s a fantastic range of environments into which species can adapt.”

Wright also comments on how vulnerable the wildlife on Madagascar is in the face of human development:

The vast majority of people in Madagascar still use wood for heating, cooking and building, leading to enormous pressures on forest habitats. As the human population has expanded in recent years, there has been a rise in slash-and-burn agriculture. Over the past 20 years, Madagascar has lost more than 1 million hectares of forest, and in the aftermath of a coup in March 2009, the rainforests were pillaged for hardwoods such as rosewood, destroying tens of thousands of hectares of some of the island’s most biologically diverse national parks — including Marojejy, Masoala, Makira and Mananara.

Protecting the island’s biodiversity will have to involve locals, said Wright, and it will have to include incentives for them to look after their forests. “If they have no practical way of making a living, of course they are going to turn to the natural resources sector and see what they can get from that, and who wouldn’t do it?”

One way to help conserve the many species of Madagascar is to only buy wood and paper products that come from sustainable sources, says the WWF. The WWF has started the What Wood You Choose campaign which encourages people only to buy wood from good, sustainable and legal sources.

Who knows, there might be 600 more yet-undiscovered species in Madagascar — it would be more than a tragedy for them to be lost due to deforestation and the loss of their habitats.

The video below by Julien Chupin, who participated in the WWF International Young Volunteer (Explore Programme) in 2006, is about human development and the environment in Madagascar.

 

Read more: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Photo of a mouse lemur in Nosy Mangabe, Madagascur, by Frank.Vassen.

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77 comments

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5:30PM PST on Jan 6, 2012

Sad news, thank you.

6:05AM PDT on Aug 27, 2011

So sad. I think the extermination of species, old and new, around the world is one of the most horrible things the human race is doing, and that's saying a lot since the human race is doing A LOT of horrible things.

11:59PM PDT on Aug 26, 2011

From what I keep reading & seeing on TV thru Discover Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic, there needs to be a lot of control concerning human population explosions. I see countries where the people barely get by, but they have more than 5 children! Maybe women in Madagasgur need to be taught that there is birth control, maybe even given the option to have their tubes tied after a 5th child, cause I think men are a lot more reluctant to have a vasectomy. There is so much war & so much hardship in the world, regardless of religion, people in the poor areas need to learn birth control. It will make a difference. The more humans on this planet, the more demand we put on our earth, wildlife, etc. and the less there is of animals, plants, the more the earth will suffer.

10:16AM PDT on Aug 26, 2011

"an astounding 600 new species have been discovered in just the past decade there"
'Who knows, there might be 600 more yet-undiscovered species in Madagascar"

Makes me wonder how many species worldwide humans have wiped out without evcn knowing they ever existed. That's extremely sad if it is so.

3:06PM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

...destroying the tiny shred of paradise left...

Hope officials and corporations get exactly what they deserve on a personal level.

11:42AM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

Honestly, the world would be better off without humanity. We are causing all of this. We destroy natural habitats to build housing. Many humans don't care what happens to all of the magnificent wildlife. It's sad.

10:31AM PDT on Jun 11, 2011

Madagascar has no internationally recognised govt. The multinational mining corps are moving in and paying a faraction of what they will take as profits. As someone else posted - the people are poor but they are not even being paid their 20 pieces of silver for the rape and destruction of their land.

Considering that lemurs became extinct in the rest of the world as monkeys & apes evolved, how ironic that it should be "the 3rd chimpanzee" that finally seals their fate?

10:16AM PDT on Jun 9, 2011

sad to hear their threatned

9:31AM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

thanks for sharing.

9:24AM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

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