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New species discovered in “lost” African forest

Photos of new species discovered in “lost” African forest

New species discovered in “lost” African forest
August 7, 2007

Scientists have discovered several unknown species during an expedition to a forest that has been off-limits to researcher for nearly 50 years due to civil strife.

Exploring Misotshi-Kabogo Forest and nearby Marunga Massif just west of Lake Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a team led by the Wildlife Conservation Society have found six species new to science: a bat, a rodent, two shrews, and two frogs.

The survey, conducted between January and March of 2007, found that 1,000 square kilometers of forest have remained intact despite decades of war. The forests and woodlands are home to a number of large mammals including chimpanzees, bongos, buffalo, elephants, leopards, and monkeys, as well as a high diversity of birds, reptile, and amphibian species. The researchers say that the expedition may also yield a number of new plant species — about 10 percent of collected plant samples could not be identified.

Unclassified species of bat and an unknown frog, two of several newly discovered small vertebrates. Photos by Andy Plumptre/Wildlife Conservation Society

“If we can find six new species in such a short period it makes you wonder what else is out there,” said WCS researcher Dr. Andrew Plumptre, director of the society’s Albertine Rift Program.

“The forest has been isolated from much of the Congo Forest block for at least 10,000 years and as a result contains some new interesting species,” said WCS researcher Deo Kujirakwinja, one of survey’s participants. “There is a real need to protect this forest and carry out more research in the area.”

WCS says that while the population density in the area is low, there are signs of poaching. Nevertheless, surveys of villages indicate that local leaders are receptive to the concept of conservation initiatives in the area.

“The survey has found that the Misotshi-Kabogo region is biologically important enough to conserve in the form of a protected area,” said Dr. James Deutsch, director of WCS’ Africa Program. “Since few people live there, it would be relatively easy to create a park while supporting the livelihoods of people who live in the landscape.”

This article uses information from a WCS news release.

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