A scientist from the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society has rediscovered an African carnivore that has remained undetected for the last 70 years. Photographed by a camera trap on the eastern side of Tanzania's Udzungwa Mountain National Park, the Lowe's servaline genet - a three-foot-long relative of the mongoose family - was previously known only from a single skin collected in 1932.
"This is the first ever photograph of Lowe's servaline genet and confirms the animal's existence after seventy years," said WCS researcher Daniela De Luca, who was conducting a carnivore survey in the Udzungwa Mountains National Park using remote camera traps. "We now hope to find out more about the animal and thus help ensure its survival."
Lowe's servaline genet was first described by, and subsequently name after, British explorer and naturalist Willoughby Lowe. Lowe's description of the skin noted that the animal differed from other servaline genets both in its range and coloration, specifically the presence of orange in the animal's white facial spots and lighter feet and legs. Ironically, another of Lowe's discoveries - the Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey - was declared extinct in 2000 after an extensive survey in the monkey's former Central African habitat failed to find any evidence of its persistence.
Apart from the assumption that the Lowe's servaline genet is - like other servaline genets - nocturnal and tree-dwelling, De Luca points out that nothing is known about the genet's ecology, distribution and abundance. De Luca's camera trap survey was the first to focus on carnivores in the Udzungwa Mountains, noted for its levels of biodiversity and unique wildlife.
"Compared to larger carnivores, the smaller species such as genets and mongooses are very poorly understood," added De Luca, "so one of our aims is to shed more light on this important and secretive group of animals."
De Luca plans to conduct more research on the area's carnivore species through a combination of ecological studies and interviews with members of nearby communities. Findings on carnivore diversity and habitat requirements will be used to formulate recommendations on how to minimize the impact of human activities and settlements to wildlife.
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