Herpetologists have rediscovered a Bururi long-fingered frog; this frog was feared to be extinct several years ago.
Herpetologists from the California Academy of Sciences and University of Texas at El Paso discovered a single specimen of the Bururi long-fingered frog (Cardioglossa cyaneospila) during a research expedition to Burundi in December 2011. The frog was last seen by scientists in 1949 and was feared to be extinct after decades of turmoil in the tiny East African nation.
"I thought I heard the call and walked toward it, then waited," said David Blackburn, professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said in a statement. "In a tremendous stroke of luck, I casually moved aside some grass and the frog was just sitting there on a log. I heard multiple calls over the next few nights, indicating a healthy population of the species, but I was only able to find this one specimen."
The Bururi long-fingered frog is about 1.5 inches long, with a black and bluish-gray coloration. The males are notable for one extra-long finger on each foot, analogous to the "ring finger" in humans, whose purpose is unknown. Its closest relatives live in the mountains of Cameroon, more than 1,400 miles away.
Herpetologists went to Burundi to find the Bururi long-fingered frog and several other species that were thought to be extinct and to their pleasant surprise, the habitats of the Bururi Forest Reserve in the southwest part of the country were still relatively intact, with populations of rare forest birds and chimpanzees.
Apart from the Bururi long-fingered frog, Blackburn and Greenbaum also documented dozens other amphibians in Burundi, many of which had never before been recorded in the country. The team also discovered some species that may be new to science.
"Eventually, we will use the data from our expedition to update the IUCN conservation assessment for amphibians of Burundi," said Eli Greenbaum, professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. "Because Burundi is poorly explored, we've probably doubled the number of amphibian species known from the country. Once we demonstrate that Burundi contains rare and endemic species, we can work with the local community to make a strong case for preserving their remaining natural habitats."