Furcifer timoni, female
A World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report entitled Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar describes how scientists have recorded 615 new species on the island between 1999 and 2010. However, many if not most of these species are already critically endangered due to the wholescale destruction of their forest habitat. More than 90% of the forests have already been destroyed – and yet the island is home to 5% of the world’s species, of which 70% appear nowhere else. Thus, when their habitat is gone, there will be no populations left to further their existence.
It is of critical importance that everything possible be done both politically and financially to find ways to protect the habitat of these wondrous creatures, and in the end encourage the growth of a truly protective economy that can arise from ecotourism. Let’s take a look at some of the new discoveries in the last decade – creatures that we desperately want to save from extinction.
This colorful see-through frog, Boophis bottae, gives you a good look at its organs through its skin! One of 69 amphibians found over the last decade, it is nevertheless under threat. It lives on the edge of the rainforest and in stream beds and was discovered in 2002. According to WWF, it is “threatened by habitat loss and is declining due to destruction of its forest habitat due to subsistence agriculture, timber extraction, charcoal manufacture, invasive spread of eucalyptus, livestock grazing, and expanding human settlements.”
Weighing only one ounce, this beautiful Berthe’s mouse lemur is not just the world’s tiniest mouse lemur but possibly the tiniest primate on earth as well. Discovered in 2000 in Kirindy Mitea National Park, it is one of nine mouse lemur species newly identified in the last decade.
There isn’t a lot of information on this Calumma crypticum, a species of chameleon. However, it and many other little-understood species are fighting for their lives due to habitat loss and exploitation. Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, Conservation Director for the WWF, said: “We’re in a crisis. We need support to environmental programs here to resume. The government by itself does not have the means to do that, We need a strong and concerted effort to reach the poorest communities. They depend the most on illegal exploitation of resources, because they have few if any alternatives.”
Image: Frank Glaw/WWF Madagascar
This remarkable little gecko, Phelsuma borai, was found in 2009. Most of the time it is a drab gray, which camouflages it well against the tree bark it spends time on, but during courtship it turns a lovely bright blue! Scientists think the quality of this gecko’s camouflage may be the reason it was never seen before 2009.
This Liophidium pattoni has to be one of the most unusual snakes in the world. Who would have thought a bright pink snake could go undiscovered for so long? Found in 2010, it is already endangered due to rosewood logging in its national park. “The bright pink markings on its back make it one of the most colorful snakes in all of Madagascar. It’s very unusual,” said Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana of the WWF.
Furcifer timoni is a highly distinctive and colorful species of chameleon, with the male and female looking like they’re made up with “glam rock” cosmetics. What is exciting here is that these chameleons came from an area already intensely surveyed. It lives in the rainforest, 850m above sea level, and was discovered in 2009.
What cannot be stressed enough is the urgency there is to help save the small remaining forestlands and habitats in Madagascar, so as to stop the extinction of species both discovered and undiscovered. As Madagascar is an island, so many of its species are unique and cannot be replaced. Their evolution followed its own path, often having separated from that of mainland species thousands of years ago.
Sources: 1 – press release, 2