Can Mozambique’s Hidden World—And Its Creatures—Be Saved?

A tree frog, Leptopelis broadleyi, found on the lower slopes of M'palàwé. (Photo by
A tree frog (Leptopelis broadleyi) found on the lower slopes of M’palàwé. (Photo by W. Conradie)

While exploring the montane forests of Mozambique last December, my crew and I hoped to discover unique species in these little-known ecosystems, also called sky islands, that are isolated from the surrounding savanna. Along the way, we made some exciting new discoveries—including a new species of chameleon—and some sobering ones.

Prepared to survey the elusive Mount Ribàué for reptiles and amphibians, we made the climb to a forest on M’palàwé, the mountain’s western half. We hoped to explore what we’d been told was a protected forest reserve and found instead that it had been cleared for subsistence agriculture (called shamba), its trees cut and burned. Walking through the unexpected devastation on the ridge, we eventually found a small patch of unharmed forest and waited, heavyhearted, until dark, when frogs and snakes are most active.

Reptiles and More Hanging On—By a Thread

As night fell, we started our search, slowly walking through the patch of forest, scanning the trees and ground with headlamps. After about ten minutes, a wave of relief rushed in—I had spotted a small leaf chameleon (Rhampholeon) on a low branch. It was what —> Read More Here


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