The Lost and Found Frogs of Haiti

One year ago today, a devastating earthquake shook Haiti. An expedition from Conservation International went to Haiti in October to see how the forest ecosystem was affected. Amphibian Conservation Officer Dr. Robin Moore and Dr. Blair Hedges from Pennsylvania State University led the search for endangered species, particularly for the La Selle grass frog, which hadn't been seen since 1985.
Although they didn't find the "lost" frog in question, the week-long expedition did unearth 23 of Haiti's 49 known native frog species — six of which hadn't been seen in 19 years. Among the rediscoveries: the ventriloquial landfrog (Eleutherodactylus dolomedes), which was previously only known from a few specimens. As its name implies, this species can project its voice to sound as if it's coming from somewhere else, making it extremely difficult to locate. Moore and the other researchers spent hours trying to home in on one individual.

During the survey, individuals from 10 Critically Endangered species were collected for a captive breeding program at the Philadelphia Zoo. This captive population will preserve the species (and allow for possible reintroduction) if the wild populations are wiped out — an assured outcome if deforestation is allowed to continue.

"The biodiversity of Haiti, including its frogs, is approaching a mass extinction event caused by massive and nearly complete deforestation," said Dr. Blair Hedges. "Unless the global community comes up with a solution soon, we will lose many unique species forever."

At the Conservation International website, you can hear the sounds of the ventriloqual frog and the Macaya burrowing frog shown here, and see pictures of all the rediscovered amphibians. Link

(Image credit: © Robin Moore/iLCP)

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