Two frogs and a salamander that were previously believed to be extinct have been found alive in the wild.
Since the end of July, amphibian researchers searching for a list of 100 amphibian species that haven't been seen in more than a decade have managed to find:
- Cave splayfoot salamander of Hidalgo province, Mexico, which hasn't been seen since 1941. Several cave splayfoot salamanders were found by Sean Rovito of the Universidad Naiconal Autonoma de Mexico in a cave system that can be accessed by abseiling through an opening in the ground.
- Nimba reed frog of the Ivory Coast, last seen in 1967. It was found by University of Abobo-Adjame researcher N'Goran Kouame.
- Omaniundu reed frog of the Democratic Republic of Congo, last seen in 1979. It was rediscovered by Jos Kielgast from the Natural History Museum of Denmark.
"I think what it tells us is we still have a chance to save some of these species," said Robin Moore, amphibian conservation officer at Conservation International, the non-profit organization that launched the search.
Moore said the project was inspired by the previous reappearance of some amphibian species that had been thought to be extinct.
Conservation International worked with 600 amphibian specialists around the world to compile a list of species that hadn't been seen in more than 10 years, then provided funding to 40 expeditions — mostly involving local researchers — to search for them.
"It's important that we know whether these are extinct or alive," Moore said. "But we did also want to find a way of shining the spotlight on amphibians with something that we thought could engage people."
The project, which cost roughly $100,000, will continue searching for the missing amphibians until the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, in October. It hopes to highlight its findings at the conference to inspire countries to try and save their threatened species.
Moore noted that amphibians typically live in very small home ranges.
"You can protect a species or number of species for relatively small amount of cost and effort."
The rediscovered species will be studied further to find out how their populations are doing and whether they are imminently threatened with extinction. If they survived where other species have disappeared, researchers hope to figure out why. The project is also connecting with local conservation programs in an effort to make sure those rare species don't disappear again.
It is also considering launching a second phase of expeditions in parts of the world where the seasons didn't lend themselves to a search in July through October.
Moore said that while it was exciting and inspiring to find some of the species on the list, some searches came up empty, including one in Colombia that he recently returned from.
"Being there looking and not finding something that you knew was there at one time is kind of sobering," he said.
In total, about a third of amphibian species around the world are threatened with extinction, he added.
"We need to realize that the declines and extinctions have been caused by human activities. These pressures haven't been relieved. We really need to still work hard to save amphibians."