• Germany's news in English

Tiny chameleon could be big for conservation

The Local · 2 Mar 2012, 06:38

Published: 02 Mar 2012 06:38 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Together with a team of colleagues, Dr. Frank Glaw of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology has played a part in identifying at least 140 new species of animals. But it’s the so-called Brookesia micra chameleon – first revealed to the world in a research journal last week – that has made headlines in Germany and beyond.

The tiny 16 millimetre-long lizard feeds on insects and small mites and is found only in Madagascar, a large island country off the southeastern coast of Africa.

But Glaw told The Local rather than simply being an interesting curiosity, the discovery of Brookesia micra could be viewed as a warning to those worried about decreasing biological diversity. If things keep up as they are, in the coming decades hundreds of species of animal could go extinct in Madagascar alone, he said.

Considering that Madagascar is one of the world’s most biologically diverse places, that could be devastating for scientific advances since new animal species can be useful for everything from drug production to understanding how our ecosystem works, he said.

“Deforestation is increasing and if something doesn’t change many of the unique plants and animals will become extinct in the coming years,” he told The Local.

Madagascar has a particularly serious problem with deforestation. Everything from farming to industry has been expanding into once-green parts of the country. It also remains one of the most fascinating research destinations for people like Glaw.

Hunting chameleons

Glaw first became interested in amphibians and reptiles as a child, when he had frogs as pets. His interest then morphed into a career, which eventually led to his interest in Madagascar with all its diversity.

The now 45-year-old has travelled there at least 15 times over the last two decades, along with various scientific colleagues, but most notably Miguel Vences, a professor at the University of Braunschweig.

So how do chameleon hunting expeditions work?

The scientists hire local guides to take them to some of the most isolated areas possible. Then the hunting for new species begins using special fences and other tools that can trap animals.

Many animals, like Brookesia micra, are almost invisible. So tracking down the tiny critter was a great accomplishment.

“It was a very good feeling – an amazing feeling finding it,” Glaw told The Local. “I knew that this was something special.”

The last few years have been spent studying the chameleon and making sure it was one of a kind. Now Glaw is planning his next expedition.

It’s going to be in November this year to the northern reaches of Madagascar where he’ll be looking for more unknown species.

There are hundreds of them out there, he told The Local – but time is running out to find them and explain to the world why they are so important to protect.

Story continues below…

“Madagascar is the sort of place that people either really love or hate – I’m one of the ones who loves it. The conservation aspect is just so important,” Glaw said.

Moises Mendoza



The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd