Mar. 1, 2011 Conservationists from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent have discovered a new population of Madagascar's Belalanda chameleon.
The discovery took place just days after the team hosted an international conference to assess the conservation status of all Madagascar's reptiles, three of which, including the Belalanda, are already very close to extinction and have been classified as Critically Endangered. The conference took place in Antananarivo, the nation's capital, from 24 to 28 January.
Previously known only from a few trees in two small villages, the Belalanda chameleon is one of 75 species of chameleon that occur only in Madagascar, all of which are threatened by habitat destruction. The new population was discovered in a third village on the south of the main island.
Richard Griffiths, Professor of Biological Conservation at DICE and team leader for the project, described the find as 'very important for this species, which is probably one of the world's rarest reptiles'.
He also explained that DICE is working with the authorities in Madagascar to develop plans to manage chameleons in the wild. 'Habitat loss and degradation is the main threat to chameleons and biodiversity in general in Madagsacar,' he said. 'Our teams are working closely with local communities and our partners to raise awareness of the plight of these amazing creatures.'
DICE's local partner on the project is Madagasikara Voakajy, a Malagasy biodiversity organisation that uses conservation science and community participation to protect endemic Malagasy species -- many of which are highly prized within the pet trade -- and their habitats.
The DICE-Madagascar project is funded by the UK's government's Darwin Initiative and the British Herpetological Society.
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