Google Earth Found Lost Paradise In Mozambique

December 29, 2008 0

London — A team of eagle-eyed conservationists from Kew Garden have discovered a treasure trove of biodiversity in previously uncharted territory in the southern African nation while scrolling around internet map on Google Earth.

“Hidden Paradise” Yields New Species

The mountainous area of northern Mozambique in southern Africa – crowded with colorful birds, strange insects and rare plants – had been disregarded by wildlife experts and map makers due to inhospitable terrain and decades of civil war in the country.

But while sneaking around an area of Mozambique on Google Earth, which allows the viewer to look at satellite images of anywhere on the globe, researchers found a path of green forest, which had never been spotted before.

Sadly enough there are no dinosaurs, but a whole host of fawn and fauna.

An expedition to the Google Earth hotspot found a piece of paradise, containing a rare colony of birds, some giant snakes and an uncommon type of orchid.

A British-led expedition of scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew to a mountainous forest called Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique has found 7,000 hectares of forest, rich in biodiversity of plant species, birds, butterflies and monkeys, the Mail online reported on Tuesday.

The recently-discovered area, the 27-square-mile forest is being called a “Lost World” and a “hidden paradise,” filled to the brim with exotic plants, insects, and animals including three new species of Lepidoptera butterfly and a new member of the poisonous Gaboon viper family of snakes.

“Nobody knew about it,” said Jonathan Timberlake, the expedition leader. “The literature I’m aware of does not mention the word Mabu anywhere. We have looked through the plant collections of Kew and elsewhere and we do not see the name come up,” he was quoted as saying by the online.

Timberlake, the leader of the 28-man crew who visited Mozambique, said about the discovery: “The phenomenal diversity is just mind-boggling: seeing how things are adapted to little niches, to me this is the incredible thing.”

In just three weeks, scientists led by a team from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, south-west London, found that the lush forest was home to the blue duiker antelope, samango monkeys, elephant shrews, almost 200 different types of butterflies, and thousands of tropical plants, and say that at least a few additional new plant species and insects will probably be identified once all of the samples are analyzed.

“Even today we cannot say we know all of the world’s key areas for biodiversity – there are still new ones to discover.”

“This is potentially the biggest area of medium-altitude forest I’m aware of in southern Africa, yet it was not on the map,” Timberlake said.

Kew scientist Julian Bayliss said that he found Mount Mabu, which had been earlier unexplored due to unfriendly terrain and civil war, while researching possible conservation projects in the area using satellite imaging tool Google Earth, and unexpectedly noticed green, wooded areas in unexplored locales.

Google Earth is not the only modern technology that has lately become of use to scientists. Wired magazine reports that high-definition video is helping scientists study the forces that create volcanic eruptions.

A University of North Carolina seismologist Jonathan Lees and his colleagues found that examining high-definition video frame by frame and using seismic data let them view rapid movements of Guatemala’s Mt. Santiaguito’s dome that normally cannot be seen by the naked eye. “The dome is uplifting prior to the plume coming out,” said Lees. “We never knew this until we did this experiment.”

Scientists say that the new technique will help them in their understanding of volcanic eruptions, which have been difficult to studying using only indirect measurements such as seismic recordings.