Boophis bottae. The new frog species, Boophis bottae, occurs in the eastern rainforest belt of Madagascar from Andasibe south to Ranomafana, at 800-1,000m above sea level. This endemic species is already 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. The species is one of 69 amphibians discovered over the last 11 years. Photo © Axel Strauß, caption courtesy of WWF.
More than 600 species of plants and animals have been described in Madagascar over the past decade, reiterating the position of Indian Ocean island as one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, says a new report issued today by WWF.
Compiling data from scientific papers published between 1999 and 2010, WWF’s Treasure Island [PDF] says Madagascar’s bounty of previously undescribed species amounts to 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals. The discoveries occurred across Madagascar’s varied ecosystems, including its rainforests, coral reefs, deciduous forests, montane forest, and unique spiny desert.
New frog species from Madagascar, Boophis aff elenae. © Miguel Vences
“This report shows once again how unique and irreplaceable the different ecosystems in Madagascar hosting all these different species are,” said Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, WWF Madagascar’s Conservation Director, in a statement.
Over the past decade Madagascar made great strides protecting its ecosystems, but progress has reserved in recent years, especially since a 2009 military coup, which led to a collapse in governance and institutions that work to protect the island’s ecosystems. In the ensuring chaos, Madagascar’s rainforest parks — especially in the northeastern parts of the island — were pillaged for precious hardwoods. Logging was accompanied by a rise in a commercial bushmeat trade.
The turmoil took a heavy toll. Madagascar’s booming ecotourism market stalled and the country’s rate of primary forest loss surged by more than a third. Funding disappeared for conservation groups working in the country.
Over the past year the situation has started to improve in Madagascar. While NGOs in Madagascar are still struggling to secure funds since most governments do not recognize the authority that seized power during the coup, the Ministry of Environment has led a series of raids against illegal timber traders and is pushing to prosecute traffickers. Meanwhile 27 conservation groups in Madagascar have formed an alliance to pressure the acting government on environmental issues. There are signs that illegal logging in protected areas has slowed since last year.
The new report comes under WWF’s appeal to raise money for its conservation programs in Madagascar.
“These spectacular new species show what’s at stake in Madagascar and what can be lost if we don’t save it,” said Ratsifandrihamanana.
CITATION: Treasure Island: New biodiversity on Madagascar (1999 – 2010). WWF Madagascar & West Indian Ocean Program Office: 2011.
Image: new bird discovered in Madagascar
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Picture: New lemur in Madagascar
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