While surveying monkeys in the Magombera Forest in Tanzania, environmental scientists this week unexpectedly discovered a new species of chameleon called Kinyongia magomberae, or the Magombera chameleon.

The researchers distinguished the new specimen by collecting, testing and comparing it to two others found in the same area of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Their results are documented in the African Journal of Herpetology.

"Discovering a new species is a rare event so to be involved in the identification and naming of this animal is very exciting, said co-discoverer Dr Andrew Marshall.

"Chameleon species tend to be focused in small areas and, unfortunately, the habitat this one depends on, the Magombera Forest, is under threat. Hopefully this discovery will support efforts to provide this area and others like it with greater protection."

Kinyongia magomberae (Photo Credit: University of York)

Dr Marshall, who is also Director of Conservation Science at the Flamingo Land theme park and zoo, is leading a research project investigating changes in the Magombera Forest. The forest is an important resource for people in the area and home to wildlife, including endangered red colobus monkeys.

The project combines research into the biology of the forest with education for local people on how to manage it in a more sustainable way. The ultimate aim is to develop protected status for the forest and find alternative ways of meeting the needs of local communities.

Citation: Michele Menegon1, Krystal Tolley, Trevor Jones, Francesco Rovero1, Andrew R. Marshall, Colin R. Tilbury, 'A new chameleon from Tanzania', 2009, African Journal of Herpetology