Omri Gal of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said Thursday the Hula Painted Frog was seen for the first time in 50 years last week. He said it was declared extinct.
Gal said, "It's an amazing find, now we have a second chance to preserve the species."
'Like holding history in your palm' (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
The frog is native to the Hula Valley, a swamp drained in the 1950s to stop malaria.
It was spotted by Nature and Parks Authority inspector Yoram Malka as he was following pelicans in the Hula Valley. While traveling in his off-road vehicle, he suddenly noticed a small animal hopping on the track.
White spots on frog's stomach (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
"Its dark color drew my attention," he told Ynet excitedly. "It's not something I see every day, and I am familiar with the species of amphibians in this reserve.
"I held it gently in my hand and turned it on its stomach. When I saw all the white spots, I realized I had something very rare… It feels like holding history in your palm."
Malka alerted the director and ecologist of the Hula Nature Reserve in order to examine the surprising discovery. The two were amazed to find out that he had found one of the rarest amphibians in the world, which was declared extinct from Israeli nature in the late 1950s.
Last seen in 1950s (Photo: Prof. Heinrich Mendelssohn, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University)
This particular species, Discoglossus Nigriventer, was discovered by Prof. Heinrich Mendelssohn and Prof. Heinz Steinitz in 1940s, and little is known about it. It is a medium-sized frog which could only be found in the Hula swamps area.
Aquatic ecologist Dana Milstein says the frog was rare even before. In the 1940s, a specimen ate a second frog, leading to speculation the species is cannibalistic.
She credited rehydration of the area for the frog sighting and said more are likely in the reserve.