New Population of Rare Lemurs Discovered in Madagascar

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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.

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The giant mouse lemur. Credit: Louise JasperWhile conducting research in the Ranobe forest in western Madagascar, Charlie Gardner and Louise Jasper spotted the Coquerel's lemur—the first time the species had been seen outside of its typical home in the forests of the southwest. However, as Gardener explained:

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.

Read more about lemurs:
Lemur Toy Made With Soy Silk
Caption This: Lemurs in Motion
Illegal Logging, Looting and Civil Strife Close Madagascar National Park, Rare Lemurs at Risk

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