WASHINGTON (June 16, 2003)—National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Mireya Mayor has played a leading role in discovering a new species of mouse lemur that may be the smallest primate in the world. Mayor has obtained a commitment from the prime minister of Madagascar to establish a national park to help protect the little lemur. Premiering Sunday, June 29, 2003, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on MSNBC, Ultimate Explorer’s “King Kong in my Pocket” takes viewers along on Mayor’s arduous journey deep into the Madagascan jungle during the monsoon season to document the find. For the first time ever, Ultimate Explorer’s cameras capture this new species on film.
Mayor and Dr. Ed Louis from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo first discovered the little creature last year huddled inside one of their many specially configured lemur traps. DNA testing proved that the find was in fact a new species of microcebus, or mouse lemur, but more evidence was needed. Mayor later ventured back to the remote island off Africa’s coast with an Ultimate Explorer team and a National Geographic photographer to locate more specimens in order to document the discovery.
“The primary goal of our mission was to photograph and properly describe this as a new species and I’m thrilled we obtained enough evidence to do just that,” said Mayor. “I had to get that documentation because only then was I able to lobby to have its habitat fully protected.”
Mayor’s adventurous spirit is tested along the way — rainstorms, challenging terrain, missing equipment and no sign of the elusive creature. But her luck finally changes on the last night of the expedition when the new species is spotted and caught by hand.
But the tiny mouse lemur that fits in Mayor’s palm needs her help to survive. With proof of its existence, Mayor is determined to ensure its safety from future habitat loss. She meets with the prime minister of Madagascar, Jacques Sylla, who agrees to designate the area a national park — a crucial step towards protecting the species that may exist only in the isolated patch of forest where it was found.
Sylla tells Mayor, “I would like to say to you, and to the entire organization that you represent, an overall thank you for the work you have done and for the marvelous discovery that you have made, which will be very uplifting for the people of Madagascar. The environment for us is major. Not only does it concern aspects of the economy, but human aspects as well.”
Mayor has received numerous grants and awards from various conservation foundations to continue studying rare primates in the wild throughout the world. She is a Fulbright scholar currently obtaining her Ph.D. in anthropology from Stony Brook University in New York.
“King Kong in my Pocket” is produced by Brian Armstrong. Carol Slatkin is the editor, William Swift is the associate producer and David Royle is the executive producer. For programming information and updates for National Geographic Ultimate Explorer, please log on to www.nationalgeographic.com/ultimateexplorer.
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