'Rainbow toad' rediscovered in mountains of Borneo

The first ever photographs (left: click on image for larger image) of rediscovered "rainbow toad" last seen over four decades ago have been released by scientists exploring the mountains of Borneo.

In recent years, the Washington-based Conservation International placed the Sambas stream toad, also known as
the Bornean rainbow toad, on a world "top 10 most wanted lost frogs" and voiced fears it might be extinct. The Borneo Rainbow Toad, known for its vibrant, patchy coloring and unusually slender limbs, eluded scientists for 87 years before being spotted June 12 in the forest on the Malaysia-Indonesia border.

After searching the forests for months in the remote, mountainous border between Malaysia and Indonesia near the Kalimantan Barat Province, a graduate student from University of Malaysia Sawank
eventually spotted the toad at a higher elevation. Pui Yong Min, working under researcher Indraneil Das, found one of the small endangered toads in a tree while canvassing the area with another student.

"Thrilling discoveries like this beautiful toad, and the critical importance of amphibians to healthy ecosystems, are what fuel us to keep searching for lost species," Das said in a press release from Washington-based Conservation International.

The researchers, working as part of Conservation International's Search
for Lost Frogs initiative, discovered two more toads nearby, ranging in size from 3 centimeters to 5.1 centimeters. The adult female, adult male and juvenile all had bright pigmentation.

Only illustrations of the toads previously
existed, drawn from specimens collected by European explorers in the 1920s. Das said his team first decided to seek the toad last August, but months of searching proved fruitless until they went higher up the Penrissen mountain range, which has rarely been explored in the past century.

"It is good to know that nature can surprise us when we are close to giving up hope, especially amid our planet's escalating extinction crisis," Robin Moore, a specialist on amphibians at Conservation International, said in a statement announcing the discovery.

The toads found on three separate trees measured up to 5.1cm in length and comprised an adult male, an adult female and a juvenile, the
statement said.

Das declined to reveal the exact site of his team's discovery because of fears of illegal poaching due to strong demand for bright-hued amphibians. Researchers will continue work to find out more about the Borneo rainbow toad and other amphibians in Penrissen.

Conservationists say many endangered animals in Borneo are threatened by hunting and habitat loss sparked by logging, plantations and other human development.

Conservation International's Search for Lost Frogs began in August 2010, spanning 21 countries in search of 100 species.

The Guardian,"'Rainbow toad' rediscovered in mountains of Borneo", accessed July 17, 2011
ABC News, "First-Ever Picture of Rainbow Toad, Found After 87 Years", accessed July 17, 2011
DailyMail, "Elusive rainbow toad photographed in color for the first time, after almost a century in hiding", accessed July 17, 2011


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