Image credit: DavidDennisPhotos.com/Flickr
Spread throughout Madagascar's most isolated forests, the rare Coquerel's giant mouse lemur is a poorly understood species hovering near the edge of the endangered species list.
Once thought to be a single species, Coquerel's lemur was divided into two distinct species in 2005. Now, following the discovery of a new population of giant mouse lemurs, it may be split again.
The specimen that we observed appears to have a lighter dorsal coloration than is noted for M. coquereli, and has conspicuous reddish or rusty patches on the dorsal surface of the distal ends of both fore- and hind-limbs. The ventral pelage is also conspicuously light in color, and the animal possesses a strikingly red tail, also becoming darker at the end.
To him, this suggests that the lemur population may represent the discovery of a new species. He continued:
This is to suggest that it may not only be a new population, but a new species or subspecies.
The lemur sighting highlights the importance of this area, WWF—which funded Gardner and Jasper's research—commented, and makes a compelling argument for extending the borders of the reserve protecting the forest.
Malika Virah-Sawmy, WWF's Terrestrial Programme Coordinator in Madagascar, said of the Ranobe forest:
It is a hotspot of biodiversity clamped on almost all sides by mining concessions. WWF is currently applying for the extension of the [protected area] to include more key habitats within the decree of definitive protection.
Without such protections, this rare and largely unstudied group of lemurs may be pushed to the brink of extinction.