Mount Mabu forest and its extremely diverse wildlife were unknown to plant and animal scientists until 2005. It was "discovered" by scientists from Kew Royal Botanic Gardens by browsing Google Earth's satellite view to look for potential unknown wildlife hotspots in Africa. It is frequently referred to as the "Google Forest".
Several new species have been discovered in the Mount Mabu forest. The isolation of the rainforest, surrounded by savannah, makes it likely that it is host to many previously undiscovered species. Named species so far include:
- Helixanthera schizocalyx, a tropical mistletoe in the Loranthaceae family. It is a hairless parasitic shrub that attaches to tree branches, growing up to 50 cm (1.6 ft) high.
- Nadzikambia baylissi, a pygmy chameleon. It is only the second species in what was previously a monotypic genus, Nadzikambia.
- Atheris mabuensis, a bush viper.
- Cymothoe baylissi, a butterfly.
Other newly discovered species include four butterflies, two more species of snakes, a species of crab, and five plants. There are likely many more new species in the forest, with likely candidates so far including a shrew, a pseudo-scorpion, frogs, snails, bats, catfish, and various insects.
Among 126 species of birds identified, there are seven new populations of globally threatened species of birds in the forest, including the Thyolo alethe, whose other populations are all threatened by logging and deforestation. Others include Swynnerton's robin and Namuli apalis.
In June 2009, the Mozambique government announced that they would establish conservation measures to prevent commercial logging. The Mabu forest is believed to be the largest medium-altitude rainforest in Africa. African forests that are unspoiled by logging and other human activity are rare. The Mount Mabu forest is surrounded by areas devastated by the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992). Poor road access, ignorance of the forest, and its use as a refuge for local villagers during the war all contributed to its protection. No records of previous expeditions or collecting trips have been discovered.
[Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozambique#Geography_and_climate
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