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New studies find amazing concentration of species unique to East African mountains

New studies published this month in the scientific journal Biological Conservation document an amazing concentration of over 1000 species unique--or endemic-- to an area slightly larger than Rhode Island in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Kenya. This remaining habitat in the Eastern Arcs has the highest concentration of endemic animals in Africa and is increasingly endangered by complex threats.

"The wild areas of the Eastern Arc Mountains are pockets of Eden--the last remaining safe havens for over 1000 plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth and some with ancient lineages stretching back in time over millions of years," said Dr. Neil Burgess, lead author of the two studies and Eastern Arc expert, World Wildlife Fund and University of Cambridge. "Side by side, these species and their human neighbors struggle for survival as more and more people need more and more farmland for food."

One study found that the Eastern Arc Mountains are exceptionally important for conservation because at least 96 animals, 832 plants and hundreds of invertebrates--including 43 butterflies--live only there and nowhere else on earth. Another 71 animals are found only within a limited range including these mountains and nearby areas. Of these species, seventy-one are classified as threatened by extinction by the IUCN Red List.

There are likely more species to be discovered in the mountains. One of the most exciting recent discoveries was that of a new genus of monkey--the "Highland Mangabey" (Rungwecebus kipunji). A further 15 new animals have recently been found that are still in the process of being described by scientists including several new chameleons. Over the next two years, surveys will continue and new discoveries are expected in remote and poorly known areas.

The studies point out another unusual characteristic of the species in the Eastern Arc Mountains: a number of them are genetically ancient. DN
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Contact: Kathleen Sullivan
kathleen.sullivan@wwfus.org
202-778-9576
World Wildlife Fund
16-Jan-2007


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