Lost forest reveals new species

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6936799.stm

Aug 8, 2007

Six new animal species, including this frog, were found in the forest
The scientists found one new bat species

An expedition to a remote forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo has uncovered six new animal species.

Conservationists discovered one new bat species, a new rat and two new species each of shrews and frogs.

The region, which is in eastern DR Congo, near Lake Tanganyika, has been off limits to researchers since 1960 because of instability in the area.

The survey, led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), was carried out between January and March 2007.

It covered 1,000 square kilometres of forest.

WCS researcher Dr Andrew Plumptre said: "If we can find six new species in such a short period it makes you wonder what else is out there.

"The block of forest has probably been isolated from the rest of the Congo forest block for about 10,000 years."

Of the two new amphibian species discovered, one, a small bright green frog, is in the Hyperolius genus, the other, a 1-2cm-long black frog may belong to a completely new genus.

Mystery plants

The conservationists believe they might also have found several new plant species in the forested region, which includes the Misotshi-Kabogo Forest.

The expedition's botanists were unable to identify about 10% of the new plant samples they collected. The specimens will now be examined by specialists to confirm if they represent new species.

The team added that the area was extremely rich in biodiversity, despite the years of conflict that have plagued the region.

The forest had been used as a base for rebel activity since 1960, Dr Plumptre told the BBC News website

The survey found that many species of birds, reptile and amphibians were living in the forest.

It also revealed larger mammals including chimpanzees, bongos (a type of antelope), buffalo, elephants, leopards and several species of monkey were present, although at lower numbers than expected, possibly because of poaching.

The researchers believe the forest contains such rich animal life because of its isolated nature and few inhabitants.

WCS said there was now a real need to protect the area.

Dr James Deutsch, director of the wildlife organisation's Africa Program, said: "The survey has found that the Misotshi-Kabogo region is biologically important enough to conserve in the form of a protected area.

"Since few people live there, it would be relatively easy to create a park while supporting the livelihoods of people who live in the landscape."