Thursday, June 4, 2009

Elusive animals

This "smiling bird" is the rare recurve-billed bushbird, which was rediscovered in Colombia in 2007 after it had not been spotted for 40 years. The legless bronzeback lizard below had not been seen in 111 years, until a researcher spotted it - and then 18 others - in the Northern Territory of Australia last year. The rediscovery of animals thought to be extinct is not, as it turns out, all that uncommon. A by no means exhaustive search turned up the rediscovery of a gecko in New Caledonia in 1994, an ibis in Syria in 2002, a warbler in Fiji and an echidna in Papua New Guinea in 2005, a terrapin in Thailand in 2007, and a frog in Honduras and a tarsier in Indonesia in 2008. These are all relatively small animals, but with the rediscovery of a deer - the Sumatran muntjac - last year, there is the slightest of hope that the Tasmanian tiger may yet turn up! "In this era of grievous loss, such stories of rediscovery, while not balancing the accelerating biotic erosion, are nevertheless cause for hope. These lost-and-found species were not, of course, truly extinct, just overlooked. But what about animals and plants that are well and truly gone; does modern science hold a solution for even a fate as permanent and profound as extinction?" asks National Geographic about the possibility of cloning. "This is still a wide and infinitely surprising world we live in, and even as we push the bounds of science and technology, conservationists have learned never to say never when it comes to lost species."

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