Oct. 15, 2010 -- A new species of carnivorous mammal, likely highly endangered, has been discovered in eastern Madagascar, conservationists told AFP Thursday.
The animal, brown and similar to a mongoose, was found in the wetlands of Lake Alaotra, the largest expanse of fresh water on the Indian Ocean island.
It has been baptized Durrell's vontsira (Salanoia durelli) after the late British naturalist Gerald Durrell, who led conservation projects in Madagascar.
The mammal belongs to the eupleridae family, which is endemic to Madagascar.
"We noticed the existence of this mammal several years ago but we thought it was a species we already knew and that is found in the forest," said Robert Bourou, an assistant researcher with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust who took part in the operation to capture a specimen of Durrell's vontsira in 2004.
The specimen captured allowed scientists at the Natural History Museum in London to determine they were looking at a species hitherto unknown.
Experts fear Durrell's vontsira is already highly endangered.
"It is likely one of the species of carnivore that numbers the fewest individuals and that are the most endangered in the world," said Frank Hawkins of Conservation International.
Bush fires and insufficient rain are contributing to the drying up of the Alaotra wetlands and conservationists have been trying for the past several years to increase local awareness of the importance of protecting biodiversity.
"We hope this discovery will encourage local residents to protect their wetlands," Bourou said.
The last time a new carnivorous mammal was discovered in Madagascar was in 1986.
Content provided by: AFP