Treasure Island: New species discoveries in Madagascar | WWF

Scientists in Madagascar have discovered more than 615 species, including 41 mammals between 1999 and 2010 but many of the exciting and colourful creatures are already endangered.

The significance of the flora and fauna of Madagascar is not only their diversity, but also their remarkable endemism. The high level of species unique to Madagascar resulted from tens of millions of years of isolation from the African mainland and from people, who only arrived 2,000 years ago.

The islands have an astounding eight plant families, five bird families, and five primate families that live nowhere else on Earth.

 rel= © Louise Jasper / WWF Madagascar


Berthe's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae), discovered in 2000, is the smallest of the mouse lemurs and the smallest in the world with an average body length of 92 millimetres (3.6 in) and weight of around 30g, it is found in the Kirindy Mitea National Park in Western Madagascar (see map).

The Antafia sportive lemur was first described by scientists in 2006. rel= © Urs Thalmann / WWF Madagascar

...

"...[although Madagascar] is only one of 92 countries with wild primate populations, it is alone responsible for 21% (14 of 65) of all primate genera and 36% (five of 14) of all primate families, making it the single highest priority [for primate conservation].
"

Dr Russell A. Mittermeier, primatologist, herpetologist and biological anthropologist

 rel= © Axel Strauss / WWF Madagascar

Boophis bottae is one of 69 amphibians discovered over the last 11 years. A recent study revealed that there are twice as many amphibian species in Madagascar than previously thought. Amphibians are in decline worldwide and on Madagascar the results of the survey suggests that current habitat destruction may be affecting more species than previously thought.

Boophis lilianae rel= © Axel Strauss / WWF Madagascar

Boophis lilianae male and female in amplexus. The species was newly described in 2008.

 rel= © WWF Madgascar

This exceptionally-coloured new snake species (Liophidium pattoni) was discovered in 2010 at the western side of the Makira plateau, within the newly created Makira National Park, province of Mahajanga, in the North East of Madagascar. It is known to eat lizards and hunts through the rainforest searching for small ground-living animals.

 rel= © Jorn KOHLER / WWF Madagascar

During recent field work scientists discovered a colourful and highly distinct species of chameleon (Furcifer timoni), in the isolated rainforests of the Montagne d'Ambre massif 850m above sea level, in northern Madagascar (see map).

Gecko, Phelsuma borai rel= © Frank Glaw / WWF Madagascar

In 2009, scientists discovered a new species of gecko (Phelsuma borai) with some remarkable transforming abilities. The species has a greyish-brown ground colouration resembling the bark of trees, which scientists believe provides the species with effective camouflage to escape from predators.

 rel= © Frank Glaw / WWF Madagascar

However, Phelsuma borai can quickly change its colour, which in this extent is unusual for the Phelsuma genus and allows the species to switch from a subtle brown to a colourful bright blue during courtship.

 rel= © Henri Mercier / WWF Madagascar

This magnificent and massive fan palm (Tahina spectabilis) flowers only once in its life, with a totally spectacular, giant, whitish inflorescence that forms from the centre of the crown. After fruiting, the palm dies and collapses. The palm was described in 2008, and was found quite by accident by a cashew-grower, Xavier Metz.

What can you do?

  • Don't buy rosewood from Madagascar
  • Don’t collect/buy exotic pets from Madagascar
  • Check www.wwf.mg for frequent updates about our conservation activities
  • Visit Madagascar and its unique biodiversity!
  • Donate to WWF

Habitats under pressure

The habitats of Madagascar continue to face ever-growing threats, including unsustainable resource extraction including small-scale, and widespread clearance of habitats, primarily for firewood and charcoal production. Secondary threats are caused by subsistence agriculture, livestock grazing, and invasive species.

Manombo Bay, Toliara barrier reef, Southwest Madagascar. The true Barrier reef of Toliara is 27km long and 3km wide. Overall the reef system from Toliara to Morombe creates 400km of almost continuing shallow water reef. It is one of the most extensive systems in the Western Indian Ocean region including barrier and fringing reefs which are inhabited by diverse species. Though these reef systems are extensive, they are under enormous pressure from human and natural factors such as overfishing and sedimentation.
© Manombo Bay, Toliara barrier reef, Southwest Madagascar. The true Barrier reef of Toliara is 27km long and 3km wide. Overall the reef system from Toliara to Morombe creates 400km of almost continuing shallow water reef. It is one of the most extensive systems in the Western Indian Ocean region including barrier and fringing reefs which are inhabited by diverse species. Though these reef systems are extensive, they are under enormous pressure from human and natural factors such as overfishing and sedimentation. © Xavier Vincke / WWF Madagascar

PK-32 Ranobe protected area, Southwest Madagascar. PK32-Ranobe is a hotspot of biodiversity clamped on almost all sides by mining concessions. WWF is currently applying for the extension of the PA to include more key habitats within the decree of definitive protection.  Negotiations with mining companies however remain challenging. Every year, large areas of Ranobe forests are felled by charcoal sellers, and in the past, much of the region was granted for mining concessions for the various minerals deposited in its rich sand soils.
© PK-32 Ranobe protected area, Southwest Madagascar. PK32-Ranobe is a hotspot of biodiversity clamped on almost all sides by mining concessions. WWF is currently applying for the extension of the PA to include more key habitats within the decree of definitive protection. Negotiations with mining companies however remain challenging. Every year, large areas of Ranobe forests are felled by charcoal sellers, and in the past, much of the region was granted for mining concessions for the various minerals deposited in its rich sand soils.  © Xavier Vincke / WWF Madagascar

Sediments in the Onilahy river, Southwest Madagascar. During the rainy season, the sea around Madagascar is red. It is the effect of millions of tons of laterite carried by streams and rivers from the highlands that are suffering from erosion as a result of deforestation. The degradation chain ends in the Mozambique Channel and Indian Ocean. In the Southwest, the sediment settles on the Toliara coral reef. Fortunately, the phenomenon has not yet reached a scale irreversible, but if deforestation does not stop upstream, the marine and coastal ecosystem is in danger!
© Sediments in the Onilahy river, Southwest Madagascar. During the rainy season, the sea around Madagascar is red. It is the effect of millions of tons of laterite carried by streams and rivers from the highlands that are suffering from erosion as a result of deforestation. The degradation chain ends in the Mozambique Channel and Indian Ocean. In the Southwest, the sediment settles on the Toliara coral reef. Fortunately, the phenomenon has not yet reached a scale irreversible, but if deforestation does not stop upstream, the marine and coastal ecosystem is in danger!  © Xavier Vincke / WWF Madagascar

Did you know...

  • Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and at 587,000 km2 it is about the size of France.
  • The island has 36% of all primate families (five of 14) in the world, making it the highest priority for primate conservation
  • With over 250,000 species, Madagascar is home to 5% of the world's plant and animal species and most of them are endemic to the island.
  • Many of Madagascar's 20 million inhabitants face poverty, and despite its rich biodiversity it is one of the world's poorest nations.