The Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) announced in April of this year that they would undertake an enormous undertaking called Search for Lost Species. This campaign’s goal is to search for, and hopefully find, 25 species of animal that had not been seen for at least a few decades. A colorful salamander known as Jackson’s climbing salamander was one of the species on this list. But, the search for this little critter is now over.
It had been over 40 years since anyone had seen Jackson’s climbing salamander when Ramos León spotted one in October of this year while on his patrol as security guard at a newly formed amphibian reserve in the Cuchumatanes Mountain range. He took a photo of the salamander and sent it to the curator of herpetology at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, Carlos Vasquez, who made the confirmation. Vasquez, himself, had been searching for the salamander for over 30 years and was delighted by the discovery.
Vasquez had lead a training earlier this year at the reserve to teach the guards how to identify the Jackson’s climbing salamander. That training really paid off! He said in a statement, “I explained to them how important this species is and I left a poster there so they could see a picture of the Jackson’s climbing salamander every single day. We had started to fear that the species was gone, and now it’s like it has come back from extinction.”
The amphibian reserve where the discovery was made was established in 2015 to protect the habitat of amphibians such as the Jackson’s climbing salamander. Don Church, the president of GWC, stated. “I love this story because it conveys how protecting habitat gives species a fighting chance to survive on this planet. This rediscovery can only be a good omen for the future of the Search for Lost Species campaign. It’s a sign that if we get out there and work at it, many of these species can be found and saved.”
Jeremy Jackson, who first discovered the salamander in 1975, said in a statement that, after receiving news of the discovery, “I flew off the couch where I’d been falling asleep, let loose a string of expletives (in a good way), and did a little happy dance.” Jackson went on to say, “I’m so pleased to hear that it was a guard protecting the preserve who found this beauty. My congratulations and thanks to Carlos and all who have worked to make [the reserve] a reality.”