Giant mouse lemur discovered in Madagascar

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Washington, March 30 (ANI): WWF officials have said that a new population of rare giant mouse lemurs has been discovered in southwestern Madagascar's Ranobe forest, in an area threatened by mining concessions.

"Last year during a night survey monitoring biodiversity along the gallery forest of Ranobe near Toliara, Charlie Gardner and Louise Jasper came across a giant mouse lemur (Mirza) foraging within fruiting ficus trees," WWF said in a press release.

There only two species of giant mouse lemurs are known: Mirza coquereli and Mirza zaza.

"Mirza coquereli is found in the southwestern spiny forest eco-region, but has never been seen in the Toliara area before," WWF said.

Coquerel's mouse lemurs are near threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means that they might qualify for vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered in the near future.

"Their population trend is decreasing. The discovery of a new population is exciting as it raises hopes for the species' survival," said WWF, which is a Switzerland-based conservation organization.

The species seen in the Ranobe gallery forest exhibits "significant differences in the coloration of its coat from the other two species," according to the researcher Charlie Gardner, who is from the University of Kent.

He and Jasper were working on a project for WWF when they spotted the giant mouse lemur.

"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 f 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," said Gardner.

"This is to suggest that it may not only be a new population, but a new species or subspecies," he said.

"However, the animal has to be trapped, examined and tested before it can be officially described as a new species," he added.

"These findings not only highlight the biological importance of the area, but also emphasise how little we know about these rapidly disappearing forests. Without the creation of new protected areas, we would risk losing species to extinction before they have even been discovered or described," WWF said. (ANI)

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