It’s been 42 years since anyone has seen this elusive little salamander – but when someone spotted one hiding in the jungle last month, it was under the most unlikely circumstances.
27-year-old forest guard Ramos León-Tomás was eating his lunch on the outskirts of the Finca San Isidro Amphibian Reserve in Guatemala when he spotted a small black and gold amphibian hiding in the brush.
The tiny creature, which is known as Jackson’s climbing salamander, was thought to be extinct until León-Tomás found him on his lunch break.
The forest guard only recognized him because local conservationists have held workshops with the reservation’s staff on what the fabled critter looked like. According to the Guardian, there have been dozens of expeditions onto the reservation in search of Jackson’s climbing salamander since its discovery in 1975, but to no avail.
León-Tomás recognized the salamander from the workshop, snapped some photos, and sent them to Carlos Vásquez Almazán, the amphibian coordinator with the Foundation for Eco-Development and Conservation.
Vásquez, who has reportedly made 30 different voyages into the jungle in search of the salamander, could not believe his eyes.
“I took [deep breaths] for a couple of hours, until they managed to send me a photo through WhatsApp, because the region is remote and there is little good internet signal,” Vásquez told the Guardian. “It was definitely the sought-after and awaited Jackson’s climbing salamander.”
Vásquez currently believes that no one was able to find Jackson’s climbing salamander over the course of the last 42 years because they were looking in the wrong place. While researchers were investigating the region in which the amphibian was first discovered in 1975, León-Tomás found it at a higher altitude. This may be due to warmer climates pushing animal species to higher ground in search of cooler environments.
Now that scientists know that Jackson’s climbing salamander is not extinct, surveys will be conducted on the area to ascertain how many salamanders make up the population.