Photo credit: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
It's not every day we stumble upon a new carnivorous mammal in the wilderness -- in fact, it's been two and a half decades since we've discovered a new one. But scientists from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust have just broken the dry spell: They've identified a new cat-sized species called Durrell's vontsira in the wetlands of Madagascar. And guess what? It's already assumed to rank among the most endangered mammals in the world.It belongs to a family of carnivores, the vontsira, that is found only in Madagascar -- which isn't exactly surprising, considering that the massive African island nation is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. But it's also one of the most imperiled. And for many of the same reasons that many other species are currently in grave danger there, so too is the most recently discovered member of the mammalian club.
The vontsira's habitat is the Lac Alaotra marshland -- a site currently bombarded by a wide array of threats. Fidimalala Bruno Ralainasolo, a conservation biologist with DWCT, who captured the new carnivore, explains:
'the future of the species is very uncertain because the Lac Alaotra marshes are extremely threatened by agricultural expansion, burning and invasive plants and fish. It is a highly significant site for wildlife and the resources it provides people, and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is working closely with local communities to ensure its sustainable use and to conserve Durrell's vontsira and other important species.'
The expedition where the vontsira was discovered.
The agricultural expansion has led to the marshes being contaminated with fertilizer, pesticides, and other pollution, endangering the vontsira as well as the other animals endemic to the area.
As usual, such cases aptly demonstrate the vast scope of dangers that face the world's dwindling biodiversity -- and Durrell's vontsira is no different.