Collecting Abundant Leeches to Find Rare Vertebrates

What secretive creatures live in Mitsinjo’s forests that we have not yet found?

World famous geneticists Tom Gilbert and Kristine Bohmann from the University of Copenhagen / Copenhagen Zoo came to Mitsinjo in 2012 and 2013 to do just this. It was the first site in Madagascar to test their innovative approach for producing evidence for the occurrence of very rare and elusive animals by using the DNA in the blood of leeches.

Ubiquitous in Malagasy rainforests, leeches are perfect ambush predators with a preference for vertebrate blood. Cashed blood can be retrieved from the leeches’ crops and tested for vertebrate DNA.

The DNA in the blood of leeches could help identify rare and hard-to-find wildlife in Madagascar's forests.

The DNA in the blood of leeches could help identify rare and hard-to-find wildlife in Madagascar’s forests.

Using leeches, Tom Gilbert and his colleagues were able to identify the DNA of very rare and elusive mammals in Vietnam such as Chinese Ferret-badger Melogale moschata and the Annamite Stripped Rabbit Nesolagus timminsi. These are difficult to detect and identify with either camera trapping or other conventional methods. National Geographic have recently joined highlighted their extraordinary work.

In 2012 and 2013, they tested if this methodology can be a useful tool for tracking down rare any elusive animals in the Malagasy rainforests as well. We especially hope that this method could shed light both on the assemblage of carnivores and the occurrence of critically endangered species such as the Greater Bamboo Lemur Prolemur simus or indeed other rare lemur species.

Does the Broad-striped Mongoose (Galidictis fasciata) exist in Andasibe? Leeches may help to answer this.

Does the Broad-striped Mongoose (Galidictis fasciata) exist in Andasibe? Leeches may help to answer this.

Mitsinjo has received accounts by villagers of Broad-striped Mongoose Galidictis fasciata in the forests around Andasibe, but no confirmed sightings have ever been recorded. Perhaps this exciting new research might bring an answer to the mystery.

Read more about the exciting research and time in Andasibe

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