July 22, 2008—A new population of wrinkly-faced, bamboo-eating lemurs has been found in a swampy region of east-central Madagascar—more than 240 miles (400 kilometers) from the other only known group of the primates, listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, conservationists announced today.
The 2007 finding comes after years of rumors that the so-called greater bamboo lemur had been sighted in the Torotorofotsy wetlands. Now that it's confirmed, the newfound group has renewed experts' hopes that the species will survive.
"Finding the extremely rare Prolemur simus in a place where nobody expected it was probably more exciting than discovering a new lemur species," conservation geneticist Edward Louis of Henry Doorly Zoo said in a statement.
Louis coordinated the joint research mission between the zoo and MITSINJO, a Malagasy nonprofit. The work was supported by the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation and Conservation International.
(Read about three new species of palm-size lemurs found in Madagascar in 2006.)
Scientists suspect that 30 to 40 of the lemurs—known for cracking open giant bamboo with their powerful jaws—live in the wetland, where bamboo is still their main staple.
The new group joins another population of about a hundred animals in the island's northern bamboo forests, which are under threat from illegal logging and habitat destruction, according to Conservation International.