New, rare and threatened animal and plant species discovered in Ghana


Papilio atimachus

From Conservation International:

New, rare and threatened species discovered in Ghana

Findings confirm scientific value of unique Western African forest

Arlington, Virginia (Dec. 6, 2007) – Scientists exploring one of the largest remaining blocks of tropical forest in Western Africa discovered significant populations of new, rare and threatened species underscoring the area’s high biological diversity and value.

The findings from a 2006 expedition to Ghana’s Atewa Range Forest Reserve (Atewa) led by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) are presented in a report made public today.

The RAP discoveries include a Critically Endangered frog species (Conraua derooi) whose presence in Atewa may represent the last viable population in the world; an unusually high 22 species of large mammals and six species of primates including two species of global conservation concern: Geoffroy’s pied colobus (Colobus vellerosus) and the olive colobus (Procolobus verus); 17 rare butterfly species; six bird species of global conservation concern including the brown-cheeked hornbill (Bycanistes cylindricus) and the Nimba flycatcher (Melaenornis annamarulae) (first time recorded in Ghana); and nine species new to science: a spider tick whose lineage is as old as the dinosaurs and eight species of katydids. (See a more detailed list of findings at the end of this release.)

Researchers also observed the reserve to be under pressure from illegal timber harvesting and bushmeat hunting. Mining exploration activities may pose a future threat, as the reserve contains gold and bauxite deposits.

“Atewa harbors one of the healthiest and most important ecosystems in Western Africa and is the crown jewel of Ghana,” said Leeanne Alonso, a Conservation International (CI) senior scientist who heads the RAP program. “This is an SOS to create with local communities and other stakeholders viable economic development options that also protect Atewa’s valuable natural resources.”

Between June 6 – 24, 2006, a team of 22 scientists, post-graduate students and assistants from Ghana and abroad surveyed the 58,472 acre (23,665 hectare) Atewa tract in south-eastern Ghana, just two hours from the capital Accra. The scientists found an intact forest ecosystem, which is unusual and significant for West Africa, where most forests are highly fragmented and disturbed.

For photos and the complete report, please contact:

Susan Bruce, International Media Director
Conservation International
703-341-2471
sbruce@conservation.org

Katrin Olson, Corporate Communications Manager
Conservation International
703 341-2768
kolson@conservatin.org

Findings from Conservation International’s Atewa RAP report include:

* A butterfly (Mylothris atewa) that is found nowhere else in the world and has been proposed as globally Critically Endangered. This status awaits confirmation by IUCN. The RAP report contains the first photo of this species in the wild.

* A new species of spider tick whose lineage is as old as the dinosaurs. This strange little creature looks like a cross between a spider and a crab, and males have their reproductive organs on their legs. They are considered quite rare, with only 57 other species known from this group throughout the world.

* The highest diversity of katydids (grasshopper relative) in all of Africa, including eight species new to science, making 13% of all species of katydids in Atewa new to science.

* The highest diversity of butterflies in Ghana, featuring 575 of the 925 species known to occur in Ghana – which is 62% of Ghana’s butterfly fauna and twice the number of butterflies found in Europe.

* 17 species of rare butterflies, half of which are found only in Atewa or one other site in Ghana, including the magnificent Papilio antimachus, whose wingspan is the widest in the world.

* 10 mammal species of global and national conservation concern, including the IUCN Red Listed monkeys: Geoffroy’s pied colobus (Colobus vellerosus) and the olive colobus (Procolobus verus).

* An unusually high 155 bird species. Six species of global conservation concern including the brown-cheeked hornbill and the Nimba flycatcher (first time recorded in Ghana).

* 19 fish species of significant potential value in the aquarium trade. These species indicate that the streams run through high quality, intact forest, which is becoming exceedingly rare in West Africa.

* The only tree fern species (Cyathea manniana) found in Ghana. Other places where similar species are found include forests in Brazil and Madagascar.

See also here.

And here.

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