In May 2016 Dr. Patricia Wright was led by a Malagasy woman named Leona to an unexpected rainforest in the middle of the bleak, beautiful Horombe Plateau in south central Madagascar. Protected from the annual fires by steep cliffs and a sharp drop-off, this 1,500 hectare rainforest has been isolated from the eastern rainforests and western dry forests of Madagascar for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This secluded area sits atop a mega quartz massif unlike any other geological feature for 300 miles, which may contribute to its unique flora and fauna. After four exploration expeditions in 2016 and 2017 supported by Rainforest Trust and National Geographic, Dr. Wright found a jigsaw puzzle of species composition. Early genetic evidence suggests that there are two or three new species of nocturnal lemurs, with relatives living in the rainforest.
Furthermore, she and her team identified unusual diurnal lemurs, normally associated with spiny desert habitat, as well as a new species of ebony tree, frogs, and chameleons.
The identification of this rainforest amounts to an important scientific discovery and the “missing link” of Madagascar’s natural history. This central forest may be both a home for relicts of ancient species, and refuge from the fires for others (like the ring tailed lemurs). With the help of Rainforest Trust. Dr. Wright and her team are working with indigenous communities to protect this forest into the future.
Patricia Wright is an American primatologist, anthropologist, and conservationist, best known for her extensive study of wild lemurs in Madagascar. She established the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments at Stony Brook University. She worked extensively on conservation and contributed to the establishment of the Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar. She is the author of four scholarly books, has spoken widely on her academic discipline in print, radio, television and film. She has received three Medals of Honor from the Madagascar government (Knight, Officer, and Commander).She is the recipient of a “Genius Grant” from the McArthur Foundation, and is the first woman to win the Indianapolis Prize for Conservation. She obtained her PHD in anthropology from the City University of New York.