An Animal is Rediscovered

A rare primate has been found, 100 years after people thought the species had died out

April 12, 2010

Scientists exploring the wildlife of Madagascar, an island-nation off the east coast of Africa, had a wonderful surprise recently. They confirmed that the Sibree's lemur (lee-mer) that was thought to be extinct was alive and well. Lemurs, a type of primate, or relative of the ape, are only found in Madagascar and some nearby islands.

The discovery didn't happen overnight but took some time to figure out. A few years ago, Mitchell Irwin, a scientist from McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, was exploring animal life in Madagascar. As he and his team walked the land, they came upon some dwarf lemurs that looked a little bit different from other dwarf lemurs they had seen. Irwin caught two of them and tested their DNA. The tests have confirmed that the lemurs are a dwarf species that people thought had died out 100 years ago when humans cut down the animals' forest homes to make way for development.

If the discovery of Sibree's lemur hadn't been made, "this species probably would have gone extinct in the near future," Irwin said in a statement. "Protecting its only known population and determining how many individuals are left are now top priorities, especially since much of this region's forests have already disappeared."

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