- A team of environmental scientists and bird experts have discovered a remote treasure in Mozambique's hidden Mount Mabu.
Using Google Earth to identify a remote patch of pristine forest, the scientists on an expedition to the site discovered new species of butterfly and snake, along with seven Globally Threatened birds, in the area that they acknowledge to be the locally known, but unmapped,, also adding that scientific collections and literature also failed to shed light on the area.
“This is potentially the biggest area of medium-altitude forest I’m aware of in southern Africa, yet it was not on the map,” related Jonathan Timberlake from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), who led the expedition. “Most Mozambicans would not even have recognised the name Mount Mabu,” he said.
Following scoping trips, a team of 28 experts from the UK, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Belgium, Ireland, and Switzerland, that included scientists from BirdLife, ventured into the forest, having to challenge the steep terrain and dense vegetation.
Inside, they found a wealth of wildlife, including three new species of butterfly and an undiscovered species of adder. The scientists believe there are at least two novel species of plant and perhaps more new insects to identify. They took home over 500 samples. “The phenomenal diversity is just mind-boggling”, exclaimed Jonathan Timberlake. Despite civil war from 1975 to 1992 ravaging parts of Mozambique, the landscape was found virtually untouched, the group said.
The site also proved to be important for birds, especially endangered Thyolo Alethe Alethe choloensis, which is common throughout. “This may be the most important population of Thyolo Alethe known,” remarked Dr Lincoln Fishpool, BirdLife’s Global IBA Co-ordinator, who joined the expedition. “At other sites, forest is rapidly being lost or much of the habitat is sub-optimal,” he said.
BirdLife also reports that the group found that there were six other globally threatened birds among the 126 species identified. Of these, mentioning the Vulnerable Swynnerton's Robin Swynnertonia swynnertoni is particularly significant - bridging a large gap between known populations. Mozambique’s only endemic species, Near Threatened Namuli Apalis Apalis lynesi, was also seen. This was the first record of it away from nearby Mount Namuli, they observed.
The group says conserving Mount Mabu is now a priority, saying the forest’s value as a refuge to villagers during the war has thus far helped to protect it, along with poor access and ignorance of its existence. However local people are returning to the area and Mozambique’s economy is booming. There is a risk the forest will come under pressure to be cut for wood or burnt for crop space.
RBG Kew is working to protect the forest, as part of ongoing efforts with the Mozambique government. BirdLife has plans to recognise it as an Important Bird Area (IBA), “Mount Mabu effortlessly qualifies as an IBA”, said Dr Fishpool. Ground-level measures could be most effective conservation for the immediate future: “Remoteness is currently its best protection. We hope to work alongside the local tea-estate managers who are conservation-sympathetic and want to maintain the status quo of the forest”.
As for Google Earth, Jonathan Timberlake says the digital imagery has helped scientists realise more about the world, saying it may reveal further unnoticed pockets of diversity, especially in areas like Mozambique or Papua New Guinea. “We cannot say we have discovered all the biodiversity areas in the world,” he said.
The expedition was led by RBG Kew and involved scientists from the Mozambique Agronomic Research Institute and the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust in Malawi, as well as BirdLife International.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.