Scientists find new technique to save endangered creatures from croaking

By | April 11, 2008

Hopes of saving thousands of rare animal and plant species around the world from extinction have been increased by the development of a “conservation map”.

The mapping technique was used to identify wildlife hotspots in Madagascar, which has some of the rarest and most unusual creatures in the world.

Scientists from six countries worked together to develop a map pinpointing the areas on the island that most need to be protected to save the largest number of species from oblivion.

They assessed the habitat requirements of 2,315 species of wildlife from Madagascar, and decided that the same sort of conservation blueprint could be applied anywhere else in the world. A map produced by the researchers shows the wildlife hotspots on the island that contain the greatest variety of wildlife and the habitat types that are needed to support them in the long term.

Rare and threatened lemurs such as Perrier’s sifaka, Propithecus perrieri, a critically endangered species named last year among the world’s 25 most threatened primates, are among the creatures likely to benefit from the creation of the conservation map.

Other species living in the areas of Madagascar recommended as nature reserves were Boophis andohahela, a rare tree frog, and the critically endangered Coquerel’s sifaka, Propithecus verreauxi coquereli.

Lemurs, butterflies, frogs, ants, geckos and plants were assessed for the project, which is thought to be the most extensive and detailed analysis of conservation requirements yet.

So much data needed to be assessed during the survey that new computer software, made possible only by recent advances in computing, was created for the task. The animals and plants chosen for the mapping project, reported in the journal Science, had such broad habitat requirements that by saving them conservationists would be able to secure the future of many other species. –tol

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