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The hidden rainforests of Mozambique

Mozambique locals are probably the only people unsurprised by the discovery of a hidden rainforest inside Mount Lico that has remained hidden and protected by the volcano’s high walls. This is the second undisturbed rainforest that scientists have recently found in Mozambique thanks to Google Earth.



Professor Julian Bayliss, naturalist, explorer and fellow of the Royal Geographical and Royal Entomological Societies, is responsible for the discovery of two undisturbed rainforests in Mozambique. The first was found in Mount Mabu, a 1 700 metre (more than 5 500 feet) high mountain range that rises up in the middle of a savannah. In it is a high-altitude rainforest that has been dubbed the “Google forest” for how it was discovered and, more recently, as “the butterfly forest”, after the butterflies that congregate around the summit of Mount Mabu at certain times of year. This is the largest rainforest in southern Africa and is home to a unique flora and fauna.

According to the Guardian, many of the species since identified in the rainforest carry Bayliss’s name. These include Nadzikambia baylissi, a sleek little chameleon with the prehensile tail, and Cymothoe baylissi, a graceful forest gliding butterfly, both of which exist only there.

“On every occasion we come here, we find something new,” Bayliss told the Guardian.


The second undisturbed rainforest was found in Mount Lico, a relatively isolated cliff jutting up 700 metres (nearly 2 300 feet) above the plains of northern Mozambique. The untouched biosphere of the rainforest makes it an incredible find for scientists. The only disturbances it has experienced over centuries are natural, such as droughts, as opposed to man-made interference. Consequently, unique plants and animals have developed there, allowing scientists to better understand both the past and future of the natural world.

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Although Bayliss discovered the Mount Lico hidden rainforest in 2012, it took him five years to assemble a team that included biologists, botanists, lepidopterists, and other experts from Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa and the United Kingdom to scale the 125 metre-high, near-vertical rock face to explore it.

In a cruel (or lucky) twist of fate, both Mount Mabu and Mount Lico were partly protected by Mozambique’s 1977 to 1992 civil war, which slowed industrialisation and migration to Mozambique’s north. In the wake of their discovery, Bayliss points out that the government should prioritise the protection and preservation of these lost rainforests. “All of these northern Mozambican mountains need protecting,” Bayliss told Quartz. “Maybe this can be a call to the government to take some action.”