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ZSL announces the first expeditions to save the weird and wonderful EDGE species

14/09/2006 00:00:00 March 2007. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has announced the first expeditions to find and conserve some of the world’s most weird and wonderful species as identified by the EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) programme. Members of the EDGE team will be travelling to Haiti, Indonesia and Mongolia in the next six months to start work on the Hispaniolan solenodon, Attenborough’s echidna, Long-eared jerboa and Bactrian camel.

‘These first expeditions are just the start of the Zoological Society of London’s plans to save some of the world’s most extraordinary creatures from extinction,’ said Dr Jonathan Baillie, lead scientist for the EDGE programme. ‘We will be exploring some of the most challenging and extreme environments in the world, from the rocky, arid plains of Mongolia, to the scorched, degraded forests of Haiti, to the lush, densely vegetated mountains of Indonesia. The species that we will be working with are astonishing, secretive animals that have been sadly neglected by conservation plans thus far and, with these expeditions, ZSL will begin to redress the balance.’
Attenborough’s Long-beaked echidna, the only known specimen. - © National Museum of Natural History Naturalis, Leiden.
Attenborough’s Long-beaked echidna
The EDGE team will go on the first of two planned expeditions to the remote Cyclops Mountains of Indonesia. The area is home to the Attenborough’s Long-beaked echidna, an egg-laying mammal that is known from a single specimen found in the mountains in 1961. The site has remained unexplored and, for the first time in over 45years, ZSL’s intrepid scientists will be surveying the area and trying to discover whether this extraordinary, spiny mammal still survives.

Bactrian Camel and Long-eared Jerboa
Finally a team will also be travelling to Mongolia to begin work on the Bactrian camel and Long-eared jerboa. The Bactrian camel describes both the few remaining wild camel and its domestic cousin. The wild form has become Critically Endangered as a result of displacement, habitat loss, hunting and hybridisation. The EDGE team will be conducting habitat and population surveys on horseback and working with many Mongolian partners including the Steppe Forward Programme of ZSL, Parks staff, local communities and the Wild Camel Protection Foundation to improve and enhance current conservation efforts and put in place new measures to protect the dwindling population.

The Long-eared jerboa is a small jumping rodent with gigantic ears and the ability to jump comparatively long distances. An EDGE fellow has been employed to start initial work on the jerboa already and the visiting EDGE team will be able to study key elements of the ecology and behaviour of the species, as well as producing an action plan for the protection of the species in the future.
Solenodon © Eladio Fernandez.
Hispaniolan Solenodon
Members of the team will also be travelling to Haiti in search of the Hispaniolan solenodon, a giant shrew-like creature that injects venom through its teeth. The work will involve surveying, paleontological research, community work and animal sampling. Haiti’s mammalian population has been catastrophically impacted in the last hundred years and, astonishingly, no assessment of the species has been undertaken for over fifteen years.

Dr Sam Turvey, one of the EDGE scientists participating in both the Haitian and Indonesian expeditions, commented ‘We will be working on some of our top focal EDGE species, which represent an astonishing level of unique evolutionary history and are completely irreplaceable. The EDGE programme is highly collaborative in its approach, both in terms of involving the general public, but also in terms of working with local communities and other organisations to provide long-term, sustainable and practical conservation solutions. The response from members of the public to the launch of our EDGE campaign has been overwhelming and it is only with their help, and their future support, that we will be able to save these wonderful creatures.’

Read more about the EDGE campaign.

Courtesy of the Zoological Society of London.

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