They were last seen in the forests of Borneo in 1920. European explorers had captured illustrations of a mysterious, long-legged, rainbow-colored toad. But the elusive frog remained a figment of imagination, as a black and white drawing.
The pictures leaped to life last week as scientists from the group Conservation International (CI) found three toads -- an adult male, an adult female, and a juvenile in different parts of the forest, outside the protected region.
Why the excitement?
Amphibians are animals that live on land, in water, and mostly in moist, swampy, wet places. They include frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. Over the last few decades, there has been a dramatic decline in amphibian numbers all across the world.
A fungal disease carried by water and drainage of swamps (habitat loss) has contributed to this decline in amphibian numbers. Amphibians breathe through their skin, which needs to remain clean, moist, and cool. This is why a fungal skin disease that is waterborne can affect them so adversely. A decline of these species does not bode well for the health of the ecosystem for among other functions, amphibians perform a very important role in the ecosystem – that of pest control.
Conservation International (CI) launched a worldwide hunt for the frogs between August and December of 2010 -- a search spread over 21 countries in five continents. Their hope was to determine whether the frogs had survived intense pressure such as habitat loss, climate changes, and disease.
10 species of amphibia are on the “Most Wanted – ALIVE" list! Among them, the rainbow toad. The only other member of the Top 10 list that has been rediscovered is the spotted stub foot toad (Atelopus balios), which is restricted to a very small area in southwestern Ecuador.
Others such as the golden toad last seen in Costa Rica in 1989 and the Mesopotamia beaked toad – not seen since 1914 when it was spotted in Colombia are still missing. The African painted frog which has gone missing since 1950 from the African countries of Congo and Rwanda, may never have been photographed!