KEY POINTS

  • The Taita mountain dwarf galago wass first reported in 2002
  • Researchers were unable to identify the creatures back then
  • Since the first reports, there were no more sightings of the creatures
  • After searching, researchers finally found the creatures in Taita Hills
  • Unfortunately, they seem to be on the verge of extinction

The Taita mountain dwarf galago was first reported in 2002 but no other sightings of the creature have been made since. In fact, there were no signs of the creature for almost 20 years.

Now, researchers from the University of Helsinki Research Station are reporting that the Taita mountain dwarf galago still lives and, it was even caught on camera.

Taita Mountain Dwarf Galago Survives

When the Taita mountain dwarf galago was first reported in 2002, researchers were unable to really identify it but, it appeared to represent an undescribed taxon. Unfortunately, they were also unable to do so in the following years because the creature was not seen since. 

Because 98 percent of the Taita Hills’ moist montane forests have been destroyed for agricultural purposes, the fate of the Taita mountain dwarf galago was unknown for a long time.

Researchers did not give up on them, however. From January to March and June to August in 2019, researchers searched for the unidentified dwarf galago in the five largest forest fragments in Taita Hills and, they finally found them in Ngangao and Mbololo forests.

Taita Mountain Dwarf Galago The Taita Mountain dwarf galago was not seen for almost 20 years. Photo: Hanna Rosti/University of Helsinki

Dwarf Galagos

The dwarf galagos live at altitudes of 1,400 to 1,950 meters. Just like other galagos species, they live in small groups and communicate using different types of calls. And, because all dwarf galago species basically look the same, they can often be identified by their calls.

“Dwarf galagos make agile jumps from tree to tree and feed on moths, cicadas and other insects. I have seen them hunting above ground-dwelling safari ants, where they obviously take advantage of insects fleeing from the voracious ants,” Hanna Rosti of the University of Helsinki said.

Biodiversity Hotspot

Unfortunately, although researchers finally got a glimpse of the elusive creatures after nearly 20 years, the creatures seem to be on the verge of extinction. Also concerning is the fact that Taita Hills belongs to a global biodiversity hotspot which hosts a high number of endemic species. This means that losing a particular location could also mean losing species that cannot be found elsewhere on Earth.

“The future of Taita mountain dwarf galagos and other endemic animal and plant species depends on the future of native montane forests of the Taita Hills. The conservation status of the forests must be strengthened and their area should be expanded by planting native trees in areas destroyed by cutting and fire,” Professor Jouko Rikkinen of the University of Helsinki said. “This will protect galago habitats and will ensure that the montane forests continue to provide many vital ecosystem services.”

The paper describing the find is published in Oryx.