Golden wonder rediscovered

Just six months after a campaign was launched to find the world’s ‘most wanted’ missing species, the first one has turned itself in

In Issue 48, we highlighted some of the 25 species featured in the Search for Lost Species campaign. Launched by Global Wildlife, the project aims to rediscover animals and plants that haven’t been seen in decades. One of these elusive creatures was Jackson’s climbing salamander.

This little amphibian was first seen in 1975 when two conservationists were walking through the Guatemalan rainforest. That initial sighting also appeared to be the last, as no one set eyes on the salamander again. Then everything changed this October when a local guard took a lunch break in the forest.

Employees at the San Isidro Amphibian Reserve had been shown pictures of the missing species and asked to keep a look out for it, so Ramos León-Tomás recognised the Jackson’s climbing salamander straight away. He sent photos to Carlos Vásquez- Almazán, amphibian coordinator with the Foundation for Eco-development and Conservation (FUNDAECO), who confirmed the identity of the lunch companion.

Carlos had himself visited the area over 30 times to look for the salamander, but every expedition had been fruitless. The reason might simply be that he was looking in the wrong place; Ramos spotted the juvenile almost 300 metres (984.3 feet) above the altitude at which scientists expected it to live. They now think that the amphibians might have moved to higher ground to escape rising temperatures. An expedition in January will test this theory when scientists search for more specimens, and successful finds could lead to the expansion of the reserve.

In the same month as the surprise rediscovery, a team headed out to Myanmar to look for another of the 25 species: the pink-headed duck, missing since 1949. They were led by Richard Thorns, a man who first saw a picture of the bird in 1997 and has been trying to find it ever since. Much of Myanmar is closed to visitors, so its wetlands could be providing the perfect hiding place.