New Snakes, Butterflies Found in African Mountains

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June 18, 2009—A U.K. team has found several species that may be new to science in a Mozambique mountain range that had no previous record of exploration. Video.

© 2009 National Geographic (AP)

Unedited Transcript

Some of these mountains in northern Mozambique have never been studied by scientists until now.

The British government funded Darwin Initiative has sponsored a series of expeditions to five northern Mozambique mountains.

Last month the Darwin Initiative team explored the approximately 100 square kilometer Mount Inago.

Scientists have made numerous discoveries, including a very colorful hemipteran bug, and two species of snakes.

Africa Project Coordinator Julian Bayliss says there is no record of any scientist visiting Mount Inago before.

SOUNDBITE: (English) Julian Bayliss, Ecologist and Project Coordinator: "When Biologists visit an area they generally focus on particular groups, they collect, they record. But they catalogue their finds and these are usually published through scientific journals, or historical evidence or reference collections are stored in natural history museums or herbariums across the world. There is no record, there is no evidence, of anybody coming to Mount Inago before to assess the biology of this mountain range."

This entire area has suffered heavy deforestation due to human encroachment caused by 15 years of civil war in Mozambique that ended in 1992.

Despite the loss of biodiversity-rich forest, the expedition has served a valuable purpose of documenting for the first time what species are found here.

Two butterfly experts are part of the expedition, and 250 specimens comprising about 75 species of butterflies had been collected.

Butterfly expert Colin Congdon says despite the forest degradation they are making new finds.

SOUNDBITE: (English) Colin Congdon, Lepidopterist: "Bearing in mind that the forests here are fragmented, very much degraded, I think it's amazing how much stuff there is here. We're pulling in new stuff every day."

One such discovery is this butterfly, a new sub-species for Mozambique.

All the river crabs collected from the five Mozambique mountains have turned out to be new species.

The researchers are collecting specimens to send to South Africa for DNA analysis.

SOUNDBITE: (English) Julian Bayliss, Ecologist and Project Coordinator: "We've got a nice adult-size crab here. It's a male."

Lincoln Fishpool is believed to be the first ornithologist on Mount Inago.

He says this East Coast Akalat is one species rapidly heading for extinction.

Fishpool says this expedition is a curtain call for threatened forest birds.

SOUNDBITE: (English) Lincoln Fishpool, Ornithologist: "Here on Inago there is relatively little forest, certainly very little forest left, and what is seems to be going quickly. So this expedition is something of a requiem for the forest birds."

While the outlook for species dependent on forests is poor, discoveries of new crabs, butterflies and other species makes this a worthwhile expedition.

The scientists hope their discoveries will spur the Mozambique government toward more conservation measures for these isolated mountains.

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