WASHINGTON (AFP) — A vast study of the plants and animals unique to Madagascar was published Thursday in a bid to protect thousands of rare species found only on the large African island.
The island is home to two percent of the Earth's total biodiversity, and only in Madagascar can you find wild lemurs, as well as several species of butterflies, frogs, geckos and ants. Half of the world's chameleon species also live there.
A team of 22 scientists has drawn up a detailed plan to protect this unique environment from the ravages of modern life and protect some 2,300 species which co-habit on the island, the fourth largest in the world.
The team drew up a road map for the 226,642-square-mile (587,000-square-kilometer) island, considered one of the most significant biodiversity hot spots in the world, the Science study said.
They collected detailed data on the exact locations of animal and plant species across the island and then used special software to track their ranges and create special protection zones.
Those species at greater risk of extinction because their habits are fast disappearing due to deforestation, were given priority in the plan.
"Conservation planning has historically focused on protecting one species or one group of species at a time, but in our race to beat species extinction, that one-taxon approach is not going to be quick enough," said co-author Claire Kremen from the University of California, Berkeley.
"Never before have biologists and policy makers had the tools that allow analysis of such a broad range of species, at such fine scale, over this large a geographic area," she added.
"Our analysis raises the bar on what's possible in conservation planning, and helps decision makers determine the most important places to protect."
The study was carried out by a diverse group of 22 researchers from six countries gathered together from museums, zoos, as well as universities and non-governmental organizations.
"This study will serve as a blueprint to help Madagascar achieve its ambitious conservation goals in the most effective way possible," said Steven Sanderson, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
"Madagascar has become a global leader in saving wildlife and wild lands, and we're enormously proud to support the Malagasy commitment to protect its natural heritage."
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