The tiny snail, which has a shell less than 2mm wide, was discovered by biologists on the Gunung Kanthan limestone hill in Malaysia – which might be the only place it can be found in the world.
Narrowly endemic species such as this are often at high risk of extinction, however, the biologists stated that the snail’s existence is further threatened by the fact that the area is scheduled for development by Lafarge Malaysia, which intends to expand its nearby quarrying operation.
In a paper published in Basteria, the scientific journal of the Netherlands Malacological Society, the biologists stated, “We name this species ‘Charopa’ lafargei after Lafarge whose declared goals for biodiversity include minimising and avoiding damage to important habitats, minimising and avoiding species mortality and stress, and minimising and reversing habitat fragmentation, and whose biodiversity ‘aspiration’ is to have a net positive impact on biodiversity.
“The decisions the company makes regarding Gunung Kanthan will determine the future existence of this snail.”
Calls to move quarrying underground
In addition to the Charopa lafargei, the isolated limestone hill is reportedly the only known home of a number of other critically endangered species, including several kinds of plants, a spider, a gecko and another type of snail. Due to this fact, environmentalists have been urging the cement manufacturer to opt for underground mining instead of surface quarrying.
“Around 90 per cent of our limestone resources are underground. Lafarge has the technology, so it does not have to wipe out the remaining surface area,” Malaysian Nature Society president Professor Dr Maketab Mohamed told Malaysian newspaper The Star.
“We are not asking to kick them out or put a halt to the limestone industry. They are already using the north side [of Gunung Kanthan]…and they should continue with underground mining there.”
In response to these concerns, Lafarge Malaysia released a press release stating it had “taken a number of steps to protect biodiversity within its quarry”, including the erection of signage and restriction of access to areas that could contain sensitive biodiversity.
The company has also met with local environmentalists to discuss potential conservation efforts.