The WWF have estimated that a new species of animal or plant is discovered every two days in the Amazon. That’s pretty incredible, and shows just how diverse this ecosystem is, but it’s also highly important. New discoveries allow us to better understand the Amazon’s complex biodiversity, and therefore how best to protect it. In Peru, two thirds of which is covered by the Amazon, our project partners on the ground are tasked with scientifically monitoring the immense flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem.
At the Tambopata-Bahuaja Biodiversity Reserve in the south east of Peru, AIDER – the project’s local implementation partner – is working to monitor and study the project’s biodiversity. This region, which is an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot, supports 30% of Peru’s biodiversity, despite covering only 7% of its national territory. Climate finance invested by Ecosphere+ clients aims to improve forest protection measures and support biological monitoring and research. As a result of this work, AIDER is discovering brand new Amazonian species never before recorded and ensuring the conservation of the key threatened species that live here, such as the Jaguar, Giant Armadillo and Blue Macaw.
Discoveries in the Pampas
The Arrozalero Mouse and Radiant Marsupial Weasel were two such discoveries by AIDER within the reserve. The discovery came while working in partnership with the Museum of Natural History of the National University of San August, who were conducting assessments of a rare habitat within the reserve. This area, called the Pampas, borders the secluded Heath River on the remote Amazon border between Peru and Bolivia. It is unique in that it bridges two radically different ecosystems: rainforest and lowland savannah. The partnership identified 112 different species in this area, 9 of which are threatened, and the Arrozalero mouse and Radiant Marsupial weasel of Unduave, both completely new to science. While a mouse and a weasel might seem at first like small discoveries, it’s pretty incredible to think that we are still uncovering new species and is a good reminder that there is so much we have yet to understand about the complexities of ecosystems across the globe.
Yet another species was discovered by AIDER in the reserve: the Ophoides Althelius, or Legless Lizard. This lizard was named in honor of the Althelia Climate Fund, the project’s investor and Ecosphere+’s founder, for its contribution to AIDER’s work on the ground. This specific legless lizard is part of one of several lizard families that have evolved to lose their limbs and, at first glance, may appear to resemble snakes. However, legless lizards can be differentiated from snakes by having external ear openings and eyelids which snakes do not, and they have notched rather than forked tongues.
We certainly love to hear of newly discovered species at our projects across Peru. For AIDER on the ground, these discoveries are critically important in painting a clearer picture of the Tambopata landscape, and how species engage with each other in an ecosystem under threat. This picture is fundamental: it’s helping us to understand this region and how external pressures are playing a role in the resilience of a myriad of species. Although the discovery of a little mouse, a weasel, and a lizard with no legs may seem trivial to those of us in high rise buildings on the opposite side of the world, these findings make up the cutting-edge research that forms the foundation of conservation efforts in the Amazon.