It was a long time coming but a rare frog in Zimbabwe was spotted again since it was discovered in 1962.
Called the Arthroleptis troglodytes, the frog was prioritized in 2015 as one of the top 10 southern African species in need of conservation research, with its rediscovery tagged as high priority. It is also known as the "cave squeaker" because it prefers living in caves.
There are only 16 specimens of the frog in collections today, all of which were likely acquired at the top of Zimbabwe's Mount Chimanimani near or in the Bundi River. Likely to live in micro habitats located at altitudes 5,000 feet or more, the cave squeaker was considered extinct or near extinct and was listed as critically endangered in 2004.
Headed by Robert Hopkins, a team of researchers traveled to Chimanimani Mountain, the cave squeaker's known habitat, on Dec. 1, 2016. The researchers left for the summit on Dec. 2 and Hopkins received a call later in the day from Francois Becker telling him that a cave squeaker has been located.
The researchers continued with their examination of the area and were able to find three more of the frogs: one female and two males. The first cave squeaker they found was male. Photographs were taken and DNA clippings were gathered before the frogs were released.
"I am able to state that this species is alive and well on the summit of Chimanimani, and is breeding well, there seems to be a very viable population," Hopkins wrote in a report.
But while the cave squeaker's rediscovery is definitely good news, it also brought concerns. According to Hopkins, he is concerned there will be increased interest in the frog, resulting in the illegal exportation of specimens.
Fortunately, Hopkins has the support of Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management.
"We are expecting an influx of scientists looking for it. We will do everything in our power to protect and conserve the frog," said Caroline Washaya-Moyo, Zimparks spokesperson.
Amphibians At Risk
Amphibians experience exposure to both land and water so they are used to gauge the overall health of an ecosystem. Unfortunately, worrying trends have presented themselves in recent decades.
Completed in 2004, the Global Amphibian Assessment reported that 32 percent or a minimum of 1,856 species were at risk of extinction. Today's current conditions may have resulted in different figures but the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources said the assessment remains relevant.
It's important to know which amphibian species are still out there for appropriate measures for conservation to be developed so the IUCN launched a six-month search for threatened species across 19 countries in 2010. The Search for Lost Frogs' aim was to look for amphibians that have not been seen in more than 10 years.
Results for the search were dismal, with scientists only finding four of the 100 amphibian species they were aiming for by February 2011. However, scientists part of the search did not give up, and it was in one of their meetings in 2015 that Hopkins advocated for the cave squeaker.