JOHANNESBURG — From giant palm trees to mouse-sized lemurs, unique plants and animals are threatened on Madagascar as political deadlock drags on after a 2009 coup.
The World Wildlife Fund conservation group drew attention to the Indian Ocean island's natural wealth in a report released Monday that looks at the more than 600 new species discovered on the island between 1999 and 2010. Many of the new finds are already endangered, the group said, in large part because deforestation is destroying their habitat.
"We as a species, the human race, we don't understand the complexities of the natural world around us," Richard Hughes, the WWF's Madagascar-based regional director, said in a telephone interview. Yet "we people are the one species with the most power to destroy or protect what's there."
Madagascar's rain forests, with their precious rosewood and other timber, were pillaged amid the instability and political and economic isolation that followed the 2009 coup, the WWF said in its report "Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar." The killing of forest animals, including lemurs, for food also increased, as did poverty as the crucial tourism trade suffered, the environmental group said.