A field biologist who trudged through a soggy, leech-infested forest in search of a long-lost relative of humans and apes returned with malaria, blood poisoning and the first photographs of an animal no scientist had ever seen alive.
The sighting of the hairy-eared dwarf lemur in Madagascar was made by Bernhard Meier of Ruhr University in Bochum, West Germany, and has been described as one of the most important rediscoveries of a mammal in the last decade.
Five preserved specimens, the first collected 115 years ago, are held in museums. But until Meier's discovery, researchers had no idea whether the creature still existed.
The rediscovery of the lemur is important because it is the only surviving species of an entire genus of lemurs that have all but disappeared, said Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International in Washington and a primate specialist.
The lemur is brown and shaped like a mouse, with a body 5 inches long and a 7-inch, furry tail. It weighs no more than 3 1/2 ounces.