The “cave squeaker” frog, scientifically known as Arthroleptis troglodytes was discovered for the first time in Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani Mountains in 1962. The amphibian species was named after the environment it was found in and its mucus-covered body and dark-red hue set it apart from all other specimens found so far. However, it wasn’t until five decades later that the frog was seen again.
Scientists say the frog has been classified as one of the rarest amphibian species on Earth, and shortly after its first encounter with the researchers the creature was nowhere to be found. Because of the lack of confirmed sightings throughout the following years which turned to decades, the scientific community placed the cave squeaker on the critically endangered list. Up until recently, Arthroleptis troglodytes was thought to soon vanish from the face of the Earth, if not already extinct.
In order to shed light on the matter, a research associate at the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Robert Hopkins led an expedition into the Chimanimani Mountains to search for the frog. Researchers discovered four representatives of the amphibian species on the site of the original discovery. According to their report, the first male was sighted on December 3rd, 2016, after the researchers heard an unusual animal call. Shortly afterward, the scientists laid eyes on a female, as well, and two other males.
Unfortunately, Robert Hopkins could not witness the encounter, as he was too old at the time to climb mountains. The report states that the discovery came six years after other teams of researchers mobilized to search for various amphibian species that have not been sighted in more than a decade.
“These sorts of things are always good news, because there’s so much bad news in the realm of amphibians right now”, said Joe Mendelson, Zoo Atlanta director of research.
However, scientists do not know what to make of this. Mendelson says that either the species is growing in number, or the researchers only laid eyes on the last remaining representatives. At the moment, Robert Hopkins says he will focus on breeding the amphibians in order to increase their ranks. However, he is worried that other scientists will attempt to remove the frogs from their natural habitat illegally. Nevertheless, local authorities have already accounted for possible criminal activity generated by the buzz of the discovery and are working on a plan to protect the amphibian species.
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