Lost World discovered (thanks to Google Earth)
In days gone by, explorers seeking a Lost World would spend a lifetime decoding ancient maps, talking to reluctant locals and hacking through dense jungles.
In the digital age, however, the job of an adventurer is more simple.
A team of conservationists from Kew Garden has just returned from an expedition to an uncharted and unexplored Eden in the heart of Mozambique after discovering it on Google Earth.
It only came to light when British researchers spotted an unexpected patch of green forest on the satellite map website.
An expedition visited the untouched paradise surrounding Mount Mabu and discovered a wealth of wildlife including pygmy chameleons, Swynnerton's robin and butterflies such as the Small Striped Swordtail and Emperor Swallowtail.
There were three new species of butterfly, a previously undiscovered adder, a rarely seen orchid, giant snakes - including the gaboon viper - and colonies of rare birds. More new species are expected to be discovered among the hundreds of plant specimens they brought home.
'That's when the excitement comes out - when you come back home or start reading some of the background and realise you're breaking new ground,' he said.
The Kew team discovered the hidden paradise in 2005. The conservationists were searching for a location for a new project and were scouring Google Earth's images online for areas at least 5,400 feet above sea level.
They discovered 27 square miles of lush, rich forest crammed with exotic plants, insects and birds. Hundreds of exotic butterflies are there each day in the sunlight above the canopy, while peregrines and swifts flew around the trees.
The trees were home to loud samango monkeys, while the forest floor revealed small klipspringer antelopes - famed for their jumping ability - and blue duiker antelope.
'Nobody knew about it,' said Mr Timberlake. 'The literature I'm aware of doesn't mention the word Mabu anywhere. We have looked through the plant collections of Kew and elsewhere and we don't see the name come up.
'It might be there under another name, but we're not aware of any collection of plant or animals or anything else taking place there.'
He added: 'The phenomenal diversity is just mind-boggling: seeing how things are adapted to little niches, to me this is the incredible thing. 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, and most Mozambiqueans would not have even recognised the name Mount Mabu.'
Scientists 'describe' around 2,000 new species each year. However, it is unusual to find so new species in one place.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1100323/Lost-World-discovered-thanks-Google-Earth.html#ixzz2yLYghwLt
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