A camera-shy toad thought to be extinct for almost 100 years has been photographed in the wild for the very first time – by a quick-thinking student.
Graduate Pui Yong Min spotted the elusive Bornean Rainbow Toad, also known as the Sambas Stream Toad, up a tree in Malaysia after years of scouring the world’s forests.
He grabbed a camera, scaled the tree and photographed the rare green, black and yellow amphibian – giving naturists the first-ever picture of the creature.
They now hope the sighting – the first in 87 years – will help scientists preserve the species.
Dr Indraneil Das, from the University Malaysia Sarawak, whose student snapped the toad, expressed his delight at the find.
He said: ”Thrilling discoveries like this beautiful toad and the critical importance of amphibians to healthy ecosystems are what fuel us to keep searching for lost species.
”They remind us that nature still holds precious secrets that we are still uncovering, which is why targeted protection and conservation is so important.
”Amphibians are indicators of environmental health, with direct implications for human health.
”Their benefits to people should not be underestimated.”
The Rainbow Toad, also known as the Ansonia latidisca, had not been seen since 1924 – the same year Russia’s Vladimir Lenin died and Greece declared itself a republic.
Prior to the re-discovery, only illustrations of the mysterious toad existed after collection by European explorers in the 1920s.
It was even included in a list of the world’s top 10 most wanted lost frogs – a global campaign to seek out amphibians not seen in more than a decade.
But a group of scientists and students, including Pui Yong Min, found three of the spindly-legged species up a tree in Malaysia’s Sarawak State during a night time search.
They had spent almost one year trying to find the illusive Rainbow Toad before stumbling across them in an area threatened by poaching and deforestation.
The adult female, adult male and juvenile, ranging in size from 51mm to 30 mm, all exhibited the characteristic elongated limbs and bright colours of the species.
Dr Robin Moore, an amphibian specialist from Conservation International, said: ”When I saw an email with the subject ‘Ansonia latidisca found’ pop into my inbox I could barely believe my eyes.
”Attached was an image – proof in the form of the first ever photograph of the colorful and gangly tree-dwelling toad.
”The species was transformed in my mind from a black and white illustration to a living, colorful creature.
”To see the first pictures of a species that has been lost for almost 90 years defies belief.
”It is good to know that nature can surprise us when we are close to giving up hope, especially amidst our planet’s escalating extinction crisis.”
Dr Das has now said he will refrain from divulging the exact site of rediscovery at this time – to try and stave off the threat from poachers.
Amphibians are the most threatened group of vertebrates, with over 30 per cent threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and a deadly fungus.