Seventeen New Species Discovered in Tanzania
The rainforests of the South Nguru Mountains in eastern Tanzania were virtually unexplored until the arrival of Michele Menegon, a researcher from the Natural Science Museum of Trento, Italy, in 2004. She immediately began compiling a comprehensive list of reptile and amphibian species in the area. Five years later, a total of seventeen previously unknown species have been discovered.
The haul of new species, which include chameleons, tree frogs and snakes, highlights the rich biodiversity of the East African country's South Nguru Mountains region.
Overall, the surveys recorded a total of 92 herpeto-faunal species of which 15 were species previously only known from other areas.
Recent discoveries include a New Species of Giant Elephant-Shrew and, amazingly, a new genus of monkey, the Kipunji which is critically endangered.
But the biodiversity in this region is being threatened by deforestation. Fire, logging, wood collection for fuel and land clearance for crop cultivation are putting pressure on the forests. To ensure these new species of reptiles and amphibians are protected and the ecosystem preserved, the Tanzanian government has stepped in with a conservation program.
To stem the damage, the government and villagers have outlined a series of steps needed to improve conservation, such as reducing the population's dependence on unsustainable methods of growing cardamoms, a popular cooking spice and an important cash crop for highland farmers.