Biodiversity in the news, articles that stood out and caught my attention.
A team of scientists, led by Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) in coordination with the Government of Honduras, conducted a three-week research expedition following the discovery of ancient ruins at a site deep within the Mosquitia rainforest known as the ‘Lost City of the Monkey God’ or the ‘White City.’
The results of that survey, published on 20 June, reveals the ancient settlement is encompassed by a pristine, thriving ecosystem teeming with rare and unique species, including new species and species once thought to be extinct.
The site, dubbed the ‘Lost City of the Monkey God’, is the subject of a movie and book by the same name and was hidden for centuries within a remote valley, guarded on all sides by steep ridges, in one of the world’s densest jungles.
Scientists found an extraordinary ecosystem rich with wildlife and plants, including:
22 species that have never before been recorded in Honduras, and many, such as the Great Green Macaw, which are endangered or extremely rare.
Three remarkable species rediscoveries:
The Pale-faced Bat, which had not been reported in Honduras for more than 75 years,
The False Tree Coral Snake, which had not been reported in Honduras since 1965,
A tiger beetle, which had only ever been recorded in Nicaragua and was believed to be extinct.
A livebearing poeciliid fish called a molly, which appears to be new to science.
A thriving population of white-lipped peccaries, a pig-like species extremely sensitive to deforestation and degradation, and which no longer found throughout much of Central America because they require vast areas of intact forest to survive.
58 species of plants from the survey have important uses by people, and species typically were observed associated with pre-Hispanic settlements of Mesoamerica, such as cacao and cacao de monte
A high abundance of peccaries and other prey species (indicating low hunting pressure) support a complete community of carnivores, including large cats such as jaguar and puma; few places remain that harbour this full spectrum of species where intact ecological links maintain a healthy, balanced ecosystem.
In total, the team documented 246 species of butterflies and moths, 30 bats, 57 amphibians and reptiles, as well as numerous plants, fishes, mammals and insects.
Trond Larsen, Director of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program.
“Overall, our findings demonstrate that the area is of global environmental as well as archaeological significance,” Trond Larsen said. “Armed with this knowledge, stakeholders can now begin to design and implement conservation strategies to protect this critical ecosystem. One of the main reasons we found such high species richness and abundance of threatened and wide-ranging species (e.g., peccaries) is that the forests around the White City remain pristine, unlike much of the region. This makes the area a high conservation priority for maintaining the broader landscape connectivity that is essential for the long-term persistence of biodiversity through Central America”
Dr. John Polisar, Coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society Jaguar Program and a member of the RAP expedition team said, “We have been doing field work in the indigenous territories of La Moskitia for 14 years, and this site stood out as being simply gorgeous. However, what really made it leap out was its very complete assemblage of native large mammals, something becoming all too rare in these regions. Because of its presently intact forests and fauna the area is of exceptionally high conservation value. It merits energetic and vigilant protection so its beauty and wildlife persist into the future.”
In light of the archeological and scientific findings, President Hernández of Honduras initiated the Kaha Kamasa Foundation to promote ongoing scientific research and to increase monitoring and protection of the rainforest surrounding the archaeological sites at the ‘White City.’
(Source: Conservation International press release, 20.06.2019)