Discovered: new species of parrot and mouse

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The Independent Online

A small island in the Philippines has been found to be inhabited by two new species of animal - a parrot and a mouse - that are found nowhere else on Earth.

The island of Camiguin is the smallest of the many thousands of Philippine islands and, despite being almost denuded of its natural tropical rainforest, it still harbours endemic animals that are new to science.

The bird is a hanging-parrot or Colasisi which has brilliant green body feathers, bright blue plumage on its thighs and throat and a scarlet-orange head and tail.

The new rodent is a Philippine forest mouse with large ears and eyes, a long tail and rusty-brown fur. It feeds on insects and seeds.

Local people say that, although they have known about the parrot because it has been captured in the past as a pet, they had not known about the mouse.

Both species were formally identified as a result of recent scientific expeditions on Camiguin combined with studies of museum exhibits that the fresh specimens could be compared against.

Lawrence Heaney, curator of mammals at The Field Museum in Chicago and a member of the research team, said that Camiguin was once covered in rainforest but, by 2001, just 18 per cent of the island was still forested.

"Knowing that at least 54 species of birds and at least 24 species of mammals live on Camiguin, and that some of these animals are found nowhere else on earth, makes us realise how important this island is in terms of conservation," Dr Heaney said.

"For these animals to survive, we've got to save the dwindling forests where they live," he said.

About 7,000 islands in the Philippines are known to be inhabited by species that are found nowhere else. That concentration of endemic species makes it an important conservation area, said Blas Tabaranza, of the Haribon Foundation, a Philippine conservation organisation in Manila.

"Unfortunately, the Philippines has also vaulted into notoriety as one of the most severely deforested tropical countries in the world," Mr Tabaranza said.

The discovery and description of the new species was the result of careful detective work.

"This description is based on a series of specimens that had been part of The Field Museum's collections for almost 40 years, so our work highlights the value of collecting and preserving specimens, because you may not initially realize the significance of specimens," said John Bates, Curator of Birds and Chair of Zoology at The Field Museum.

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