January 04, 2009
17 previously unknown species of reptiles and amphibians have been discovered in the rainforests of eastern Tanzania, report Italian and Tanzanian scientists.
Conducting surveys of the ‘virtually unexplored’ forests of the South Nguru Mountains between 2004 and 2006, Michele Menegon of the Natural Science Museum of Trento in Italy and colleagues recorded 92 species of ‘herps’, of which 17 had never before been documented. The new species — which include chameleons, tree frogs, and snakes, among others — are believed to be endemic to the region.
Kinyongia fisheri fisheri a chameleon species recorded during the surveys. Photo courtesy of Menegon et al.
“These results, documenting the high species richness and the outstanding number of putative endemics of the forests, strongly highlight the biological importance of the South Nguru Mountains and place them among the most important sites for the conservation of herpetofauna in Africa,” wrote Menegon and Nike Doggart, a co-author of a report published in the journal Acta Herpetologica
The discoveries highlight the region’s rich biodiversity, but Menegon and Doggart, together with Nisha Owen of the Frontier Tanzania Forest Research Program in Dar es Salaam, warn that the ecosystem is already under threat from fire, logging, fuelwood collection, and clearing for agriculture including cardamom cultivation. Nevertheless the authors are encouraged by the efforts of a Tanzanian NGO, the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), to work with local stakeholders to improve conservation planning in the region.
“Villagers and government have identified a series of actions required to address the issue of forest loss,” the authors write. “This includes a combination of direct forest management activities such as developing and implementing forest management plans and boundary demarcation; and activities aimed at reducing local people’s dependence on unsustainable activities such as the current methods of cultivating cardamom.
"The program represents an opportunity to reverse the current trend of forest loss and degradation. To succeed the program will need sustained commitment from the Government of Tanzania, civil society organizations, the local communities and development partners to conserve the unique biodiversity of this area," they conclude.
CITATION: Michele Menegon, Nike Doggart, Nisha Owen. The Nguru mountains of Tanzania, an outstanding hotspot of herpetofaunal diversity. Acta Herpetologica 3(2): 107-127, 2008