Lost and Found: Rediscovering Missing Species

Lost and Found: Rediscovering Missing Species

“There are 856 mammal, bird, amphibian and reptile species currently missing”

One of the most notable rediscoveries is of Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna. Here is an excerpt from the article where one of the researchers describes the moment they found it:

“Gison Morib was home lying in bed, sick from exhaustion after a month-long jungle expedition, when his phone buzzed and a black-and-white photograph appeared. Morib ran outside, jumped on his motorbike and sped through the city of Sentani on Indonesian New Guinea to his colleagues’ expedition and research base—where he broke down in tears. “I cannot believe we found it,” was all he could say, over and over. The photograph showed the first recorded sighting in more than 60 years of an Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna, an egg-laying mammal. After the researchers had spent three years of research and four weeks of trekking through the island’s remote Cyclops Mountains—and after one leech attaching itself to Morib’s eyeball—the team’s camera trap had finally captured an image of the echidna. “Even now I can’t describe the feeling [I had] when we got it,” says Morib, a biology undergraduate student at nearby Cenderawasih University. “I cannot describe the goodness of God.”

It is a tough topic to come to terms with, declaring an animal species extinct. So researchers have begun to take on a new approach as to just declaring the species “lost.” This simple word change has created a new ray of hope. As what is lost can be found. Most recently “in 2023 that hope led to rediscoveries of animals that included Attenborough’s echidna, De Winton’s golden mole in South Africa and the Victorian grassland earless dragon, a type of Australian lizard that went unseen for half a century. Such hope also fuels ongoing, decades-long searches for species such as the American Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which was last seen in 1944.” At times things can seem so grim but by putting forth a positive foot forward and an optimistic mindset amazing things can be rediscovered!

You may be thinking, how in the world can a species that has been “lost” for decades somehow be found again. This is where today’s remarkable technology comes in handy. Our “increasingly sophisticated technology, including systems that detect environmental DNA (eDNA) traces of burrowing birds near the South Pole, software that disentangles the noises of different nocturnal species, and even techniques used to spot microscopic traces of rare frogs in ship rats’ stomachs.” The knowledge that goes behind creating and interpreting this technology is truly world renowned!

The sad reality of it is that “after a rediscovery, it can take months to secure an area from poachers or tourists. The researchers who spotted the Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna still have not revealed exactly where they found it.” Disclosing such information could result in the echidna being permanently lost and resulting in extinction in months after decades of work trying to find it again. This is where we come into play! Advocating for these species through education, policy, and awareness changes the outcome of these situations. What sometimes seems like a small voice becomes a loud call when we all band together to protect these species.  While the challenges of conservation are vast, the glimmer of hope offered by such rediscoveries illuminates a path forward. No step is too small when it comes to the progression of saving species and their environment! Together, we can ensure that the wonders of nature endure for all to cherish and marvel at.

Read the full article here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/which-lost-species-may-be-found-again-huge-study-reveals-clues/ 

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