Six hundred new species discovered in Madagascar

A news story in today’s Guardian, reporting on a study from the WWF, reveals that 600 new species have been discovered in Madagascar since 1999.

The topography and climate of Madagascar, with a mountain ridge down the centre of the Island and rainforest cover, leads to a diverse mix of wet and dry areas in which species can evolve and flourish.

Newly discovered species include the smallest known primate, Berthe’s mouse lemur, and six new species of coffee – with tremendous economic importance.

Commenting on the report, Mark Wright, WWF’s conservation science advisor, said that local people had to be part of the solution to degradation of Madagascar’s environment. People have to be given incentives to protect 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?” He expressed optimism for the future of Madagascan biodiversity, commenting that “There are some signs that things are good – there are growing local groups who are trying to conserve biodiversity. There is a local recognition and a need to protect it for their own reasons – that is very healthy.”

Madagascar’s record of biodiversity: 600 species discovered in a decade. Monday 6th June 2011, Alok Jha