"Extinct" Species Discovered Alive And Well In "Lost City" In Honduras Rainforest

During the mating season, when the rains start, the calls of the explosive breeding Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) fill the night air. © Trond Larsen

Around the ruins and dense rainforest of a mysterious "lost city" in Honduras, researchers have discovered a treasure trove of biodiversity, including numerous species once thought to be extinct and others previously unknown to science.

As detailed in a new report, a recent expedition by Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) and the Government of Honduras headed deep into a previously unexplored corner of the forest around Ciudad Blanca, in La Mosquitia, Honduras.

Their biological assessment documented 246 species of butterflies and moths, 30 bats, 57 amphibians and reptiles, as well as numerous fish, mammals, and insects. At least 22 of these species had never been recorded in Honduras before.

RAP Honduras 2017. A pair of Great Curassow walking down the path looking for fruit. © John van Dort
A majestic Jaguar caught on a camera trap from Honduras, 2017. © Washington State University, Panthera, Wildlife Conservation Society, Zamorano University, Honduran Forest Conservation Institute, Travis King, John Polisar, Manfredo Turcio

Most exciting of all, the team “rediscovered” three species long assumed to be locally extinct: the pale-faced bat (below), which had not been reported in Honduras for more than 75 years; the false tree coral snake, which had not been reported in Honduras since 1965; and a type of tiger beetle (Odontochila nicaraguense), which was thought to be endemic to Nicaragua and thus was believed to be totally extinct.

The Mosquitia rainforest is home to many ruins of ancient settlements, and researchers believe some of these could be the legendary "Lost City of the Monkey God" or the fabled “White City”. It was once thought that this settlement was a myth dreamed up by conquistadors in the 16th century, however, archaeological surveys over the past decade claim to have found the mysterious lost city. Other researchers remain doubtful that we have truly discovered the much-hyped “White City”, but what is undoubtedly true is the incredible range of biodiversity being discovered in the area.

The Pale-faced Bat (Phylloderma stenops). © Trond Larsen
A species of worm salamander (Oedipina quadra). © Trond Larsen

Regardless of the archaeological debate, the region remains one of the most undisturbed rainforests in Central America. The RAP spent their 3-week expedition under the watch of armed guards, partially for fear of wild predators, like jaguars and pumas, but also because the area is known to be used by drug traffickers. This presence has also raised fears of illegal cattle ranching, loggers, and poachers in the area, which could put this delicate ecosystem at risk.

Partially thanks to these new scientific findings, President Juan Orlando Hernández has initiated the Kaha Kamasa Foundation to promote ongoing scientific research and help the government develop strategies for protecting this truly invaluable region.

“We have been doing field work in the indigenous territories of La Moskitia for 14 years, and this site stood out as being simply gorgeous. However, what really made it leap out was its very complete assemblage of native large mammals, something becoming all too rare in these regions,” Dr John Polisar, Coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society Jaguar Program, said in a statement.

“Because of its presently intact forests and fauna the area is of exceptionally high conservation value. It merits energetic and vigilant protection so its beauty and wildlife persist into the future.”

A male Harlequin beetle (Acrocinus longimanus) sits a the base of a tree. © Trond Larsen

 

 

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