Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A frog that glows in the dark

Scientists have announced the discovery of two dozen new species in the remote plateaus of eastern Suriname, including a frog with fluorescent purple markings and 12 kinds of dung beetles. Suriname is a South American country which borders Brazil, Guyana and French Guiana.

The species were discovered during a 2005 expedition led by the US-based nonprofit Conservation International in rainforests and swamps about 80 miles southeast of Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. The expedition was sponsored by two mining companies hoping to excavate the area for bauxite, the raw material used to make aluminum, and it was unknown how the findings would affect their plans.

Aside from the fluorescent frog (known as the atelopus frog) and dung beetles, other species found were six types of fish, 12 dung beetles, and one ant species.

The scientists called for better conservation management in the unprotected, state-owned areas, where hunting and small-scale illegal mining is rampant.

The study was financed by Suriname Aluminum Company LLC and BHP Billiton Maatschappij Suriname. Suriname Aluminum, which has a government concession to explore gold in the area, will include the data in its environmental assessment study.

About 80 percent of Suriname is covered with dense rainforest. Thousands of Brazilians and Surinamese are believed to work in illegal gold mining, creating mercury pollution that has threatened the health of Amerindians and Maroons in Suriname's interior.

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