In a world that feels like it is getting smaller every day, it is always refreshing to find that new discoveries are being made. In this section we present our selection of the best wildlife stories from around the globe.
JAGUARS PROVEN TO VISIT BARRO COLORADO, PANAMA - Smithsonian Magazine
Researchers have captured the first-ever photo of a jaguar on Barro Colorado Island, a key tropical forest research site in Panama, reports the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO - University of Wyoming/BBC Website
Research into the courtship displays of long-tailed manakins in Costa Rica shows that males co-operate in a bizarre double dance dubbed the “backwards leapfrog”. The alpha male always wins these dance-offs but the “wingman” inherits the mating site when the alpha male dies.
Amid the amphibian extinction crisis—where amphibians worldwide are disappearing due to habitat loss, pollution, and a devastating fungal epidemic—the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC) has announced some good news. In a survey of the island-nation of Madagascar they have identified between 129 and 221 new species of frogs. The discovery of so many new species nearly doubles the island’s total number of frogs.
The survey’s findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have led researchers to wonder how many undiscovered species still remain in Madagascar—and worldwide.
The discovery of so many species, including nearly a quarter of which have not been found in any of Madagascar’s protected areas, raises conservation alarm bells. Having already lost nearly 80 percent of its original forest cover, Madagascar is currently experiencing an environmental crisis due to political instability.
The recent political unrest in Madagascar has led to a large reduction of visitors and the degradation of the island’s protected forests by illegal loggers. Only a renewed surge of visitors can lead once again to funds going to the parks authorities to pay for rangers to enforce wildlife and habitat protection. Please call Helen Cox or Alan Godwin on 01803 866965 to arrange your wildlife holiday to the Big Red Island.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA DIARY - BBC Website
Toxic catfish, mini assassins and kangaroos in the trees. All part of a BBC Natural History Unit expedition to Papua New Guinea.
NEW SPECIES OF GIANT PALM FOUND IN MADAGASCAR - Kew Gardens
Botanists have discovered a new species of giant self-destructing palm in Madagascar. The tree, described as the nation's largest palm species, is unlike anything else ever found on the island before, say scientists. Although villagers knew of its existence, none had witnessed the tree in flower. When this finally happened last year, botanists found that the tree spent so much energy flowering that it died. The plant is said to be so big it can be seen on Google Earth.
WORLD'S RAREST TREE FROG FOUND IN COSTA RICA - BBC website
An extremely rare female frog has been spotted in the rainforests of Costa Rica for the first time in 20 years.
HOPES DASHED FOR LONESOME GEORGE - Galapagos.org
Thought to be the only survivor of a race of giant tortoise native to the Galapagos island of Pinta, there was great excitement when females housed with "Lonesome George" produced a clutch of eggs. However, studies have shown all of the eggs to be infertile. There is still hope of future breeding plus a genetic study is looking for hybrids of the Pinta subspecies on other islands.
BIO-RICH COSTA RICA'S NEW MARVELS - BBC website.
Three new species of salamander have been discovered in a remote forest reserve in Costa Rica. They were among some 5,000 plants and animals recorded by scientists from London's Natural History Museum during three expeditions to Central America. Two species are nocturnal, while the third is a dwarf variety, growing to little longer than a thumbnail. The three new salamanders were found in La Amistad National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site on the Costa Rica-Panama border. Two belong to the nocturnal Bolitoglossa genus; while the third, from the Nototriton (dwarf salamander) family, is a diminutive 3cm (1 inch) in length.
MADAGASCAR DUCK BACK FROM EXTINCTION - Durrell News
A duck feared extinct has been found alive and well in the wild after zoologists spent 18 years looking in the wrong habitat. Last seen in 1991, the Madagascar pochard was found by conservationists looking for a rare hawk. Glyn Young, of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, who has searched since 1989 for Aythya innotata, was contacted and soon found 20 adults and seven young. He said: “The Madagascar pochard is extremely secretive and little is known about its life cycle and behaviour. It is believed that they prefer marshy lakes…but they were found in a steep-sided volcanic lake.”
BORNEO’S CLOUDED LEOPARD A NEW CAT SPECIES - WWF
The clouded leopard of Borneo, the island’s biggest predator, was until recently believed to be the same species as that found on mainland Asia. New genetic research, however, has clearly highlighted around 40 differences between them, while supporting evidence comes from a comparison of the fur markings. Dr Andrew Kitchener of the National Museums of Scotland said, “It’s incredible that no-one has ever noticed these differences.” WWF estimates the Borneo population at between 5000 and 11,000, with a further 3000 to 7000 on Sumatra. It is just as well that the three governments with a presence on Borneo (Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei) signed an agreement in 2007 pledging to protect the “Heart of Borneo”, 200,000 sq kms of rainforest in the island’s centre believed to be particularly high in biodiversity.
PINK IGUANA: GENETIC STUDIES REVEAL A NEW SPECIES IN GALAPAGOS - Galapagos.org
After several years of performing genetic studies, a study by Tor Vergata University in Rome, in close collaboration with the Galapagos National Park (GNP), has concluded that the pink iguana found on Wolf volcano on Isabela Island is a new species, distinct from those previously known.
RAFFLESIA RELATIVES REVEALED - Sunday Times
Found mainly in Borneo, Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower which attains a width of more than three metres and a weight of 15lbs (7kg), is most closely related to a family with some of the smallest blooms: Euphorbiaceae. This includes poinsettias, rubber trees and castor oil plants. The flower, which has a bud bigger than a football, is the only visible part of a plant with no leaves, shoots or roots and which lives as a parasite within a tropical vine. Charles Davis of Harvard University, who discovered the link, said: ”Rafflesia is unusual enough that it’s frankly been difficult to imagine it fitting neatly into any plant family”.
BORNEO – A NEW SPECIES FOUND EACH WEEK - WWF
A new species is identified on average every week on Borneo, a report by WWF has revealed. In one year 30 fish species, two tree frogs, 16 gingers, three trees and one large leafed plant were all found. This emphasises the pressing need to conserve the third largest island in the world, whose forests are being cut down at a rate of around two million hectares per annum for timber and agriculture.
MAPPING MADAGASCAR’S RICH BIODIVERSITY - BBC website
More than 80% of the species found in Madagascar are unique to the island. Researchers have now developed a technique to pinpoint the hotspots of biodiversity within the country as an aid to conserve these unique species. Writing in Science, co-author Claire Kremen says "There has also been a lot of diversification within the island of the plants and animals, so it's not only a place where many species are unique, it is also a place that is very rich in biodiversity. The real problem is knowing what areas to protect”
NEW SPECIES OF ORCHIDS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA - WWF
Thirty new orchid species have been discovered in Kikori, a largely unexplored rainforest region of PNG. “The island is a gold mine of orchids”, said Wayne Harris, a botanist from Queensland Herbarium, “There are more than 3000 known species here…more than any other country in the world.”
“EXTINCT” INDIAN SPECIES RediscoveredIndia has seen many species disappear from the wild over the last century. Some are certainly extinct, but for others, hope still flickers among naturalists. This optimism is not always misplaced - a number of species have been rediscovered within the last few decades, including:
FOREST OWLET (Athene Blewitti) This recently rediscovered species has a tiny, fragmented population known from only four localities. It is inferred to be declining as a result of loss of its deciduous forest habitat. A crepuscular, diurnal bird endemic to Central India, the forest owlet lives in dry deciduous forests interspersed with shrubs and grasses. Until its rediscovery in November 1997, it was known from seven specimens collected during the 19th century at four localities in two widely separated areas - northern Maharashtra, and southeast Madhya Pradesh/western Orissa. The new name for the species is Heteroglaux blewitti.
JERDON’S COURSER (Cursorius bitorquatus) The Jerdon’s Courser is a rare bird endemic to the Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh and extreme southern Madhya Pradesh. Historically, it was known from just a few records in the Pennar and Godavari river valleys and was assumed to have been extinct until its rediscovery around Lankamalai in 1986. Not seen after 1895, the bird was rediscovered at Reddipally village in Cuddappah district of Andhra Pradesh after a vigorous search. It has since been sighted at six localities in the vicinity, with all six probably holding birds from a single population. The new name of the species is Rhinoptilus bitorquatus.
TRAVANCORE EVENING BROWN (Parantirrhoea marshalli) The Travancore Evening Brown, one of the rarest butterflies in the world, was rediscovered in Kerala’s Periyar Tiger Reserve after a gap of several decades. It is a brush footed butterfly belonging to the Nymphalidae family.
MALABAR LARGE SPOTTED CIVET (Viverra civettina) The Malabar Large Spotted Civet was once very common in the coastal districts of Malabar and Travancore in southwest India. By the late 1960s it was thought to be nearing extinction. None was seen for a long period of time until 1987, when it was rediscovered about 60 kilometres east of Calicut in Kerala. A 1990 survey revealed that isolated populations of the Malabar large spotted civet still survive in less disturbed areas of South Malabar.
ANDAMAN GREEN CALOTES (Calotes andamanensis) This lizard from the Andaman Islands was believed to have disappeared forever until it was rediscovered at the end of the 20th Century. It is an arboreal and insectivorous reptile.
NEW SRI LANKA SPECIES FOUNDA new endemic species of shrew has been discovered in the beautiful Sinharaja rainforest reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The discovery of Crocidura hikimiya brings the total number of endemic Sri Lankan mammals to 18.
Other notable fauna developments have been the possible dividing of the island’s mouse deer into two separate species (wet zone and dry zone), a jungle cat at Wasgomuwa and a pack of six jackals at Knuckles. For birders, Sri Lanka is also equally if not more rewarding. In the latter part of 2008, many other exciting wildlife viewings were recorded: sloth bear, rusty-spotted wild cat, ring tailed civet, jungle cat and mating leopards in Yala National Park, and Ceylon spurfowl, Ceylon blue magpie and Serendib scops owl were seen in Sinharaja.
“I must reiterate how good this holiday was. Alan Godwin provided the perfect itinerary for us. Our guide ensured everything was seamless; both he and our driver were pleasant to be with and were acutely aware of likes/wishes in what we wanted to see. There was never any rush. Tsarabanjina was perfect…[Your representatives] were excellent.”
Mr J H - West Sussex