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Shrinking Tanzanian forests yield new species

Seventeen previously unknown species of reptiles and amphibians have been found in the threatened rainforests of eastern Tanzania, Italian and Tanzanian scientists reported on Monday.

The haul of new species, which include chameleons, tree frogs and snakes, highlights the rich biodiversity of the East African country's South Nguru Mountains region, they wrote in the journal Acta Herpetologica.

Authors Michele Menegon of the Natural Science Museum of Trento in Italy and his colleagues said the region's ecosystem was under threat from fire, logging, collection of wood for fuel and land clearance for cultivation.

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To stem the damage, the government and villagers have outlined a series of steps needed to improve conservation, such as reducing the population's dependence on unsustainable methods of growing cardamoms, a popular cooking spice and an important cash crop for highland farmers.

"The program represents an opportunity to reverse the current trend of forest loss and degradation," the scientists wrote.

"To succeed, the program will need sustained commitment from the government of Tanzania, civil society organizations, the local communities and development partners."

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