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Scientific team in Mozambique also finds new reptiles and butterflies
That the forest is almost untouched by human presence is clear. There are no chopped stumps, few paths, and the big forest giants like the mahogany trees are only falling because of occasional rot. The trees rise like the pillars of a cathedral, and the forest floor is dark, damp and covered in leaf litter.
The sheer number of new species found in the forest is staggering. To date there are four new butterflies, at least one new chameleon, three species of snake, a new species of crab, five new species of plants, and a host of potential new species, including a shrew, snails, a pseudo-scorpion, frogs, catfish, bats and insects. It’s clear that Mount Mabu’s secrets are only beginning to be revealed, and the researchers believe there is much more awaiting discovery.
Identifying new species is difficult. It can take years to confirm or deny the discovery, and the Dwarf Chameleons are a perfect example. Unlike Bill Branch’s new find, the chameleons may be closely related to a species on a nearby mountain. Are they different? They appear different, but Branch is here to find out, so he is collecting specimens and will do DNA testing. His feeling is that they may well be, but the discovery process is still unfolding.
The Darwin Initiative has presented their findings from Mount Mabu in Maputo, Mozambique's capital. Donor organizations including the British Kew Gardens, which oversaw the grant, and senior officials in the government of Mozambique heard the scientists outline potential protection for Mount Mabu and the other study sites. Government officials gave a commitment to protect the sites studied by the Darwin Initiative, including the Mabu forest. This is the first step in protecting the rare forests and the biodiversity that they foster.
Bayliss explains the importance of the meeting with the government officials and major donors. Sitting against the summit stone of Mout Mabu, looking out over the unending trees he explains. “We don’t want to finish our project with a series of technical reports about our findings in Mabu. We want to finish our project with strong conservation measures in place for each of our sites.”
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