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Madagascar: new species discovered, but already in danger

6 June 2011

A lemur just 10cm long and a gecko that turns bright blue to attract a mate are among the new species discovered in Madagascar over the last decade.

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, Microcebus berthae © Louise Jasper / WWF Madagascar

Scientists identified over 600 new species, including 41 mammals, on the island between 1999 and 2010 – that’s a new species every week. But many of these newly identified plants and animals are already under threat.

You can discover the new species for yourself in a report we’ve just released – Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar.

In total, there are:

  • 385 plants, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles, 42 invertebrates, 41 mammals, 17 fish.
Some of the most remarkable discoveries include:

  • 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.
Sadly, Madagascar’s unique habitats are under threat, and these newly discovered species face an uncertain future.

“This report highlights the unique and irreplaceable ecosystems that exist in Madagascar,” says Mark Wright, conservation science adviser at WWF-UK.

“WWF is working hard to establish a network of protected areas across the island, and to promote sustainable livelihood alternatives, which would help people in Madagascar to live in harmony with the natural world surrounding them.”

Forest loss
Deforestation is one of the most serious problems. Over the last 10 years, Madagascar has lost more than a million hectares of forest – and illegal logging is on the rise again.

In the political turmoil following a coup in 2009, Madagascar’s rainforests were pillaged for valuable hardwoods, especially rosewood. Tens of thousands of hectares were affected, including some of the island’s most important national parks.

You can help Madagascar’s unique wildlife, and forests all over the world, by only buying wood and paper products that come from sustainable sources.

You can…

Read the report
Make sure you choose products that don’t threaten the world’s forests
Find out more about our achievements in Madagascar
Enter our astonishing new species competition

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Research carried out in the Amazon rainforest, Peru

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