5 Extinct Creatures Found on Camera

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In 2011, amateur naturists Lizzie Noble and Sion McKeown were in the El Dorado Nature Reserve at night in northern Columbia. Suddenly, a tiny red rodent showed up at the porch of the lodge they were staying in. It was the extremely elusive Santa Marta Tree Rat, a small mammal that hadn’t been seen in 113 years. The animal sat in the porch’s banister and posed for almost two hours, only to disappear again.

Roughly the size of a guinea pig, the animal has a band of reddish fur around its neck and a black and white tail. The rodent lives in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, which has allowed it to stay hidden for over a century. One specimen was collected in the late 1800s, but little else is known about one of the world’s rarest species.

Researchers had never seen the rodent in its natural habitat, and don’t even know where the critters make their homes. The mammal is currently listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List.

After the 2011 photo surfaced, conservationists were inspired. Texas A&M Ph.D. student Nicolette Roach was one of the scientists who began a mission into the jungle to find the elusive Santa Marta Toro again. She and her team set up camera traps throughout the nature reserve, attempting to lure the rodents from the shadows with sweets like heart-shaped cherry lollipops.

The scientists also conducted monotonous, multi-hour nightly surveys of patches of forest for four weeks. But since so little is known about the creature, researchers had a hard time recognizing the signs the Toro leaves behind.

Some local coffee farmers have spotted the Santa Marta Toro through the years, but scientists haven’t been as lucky. However, they don’t lose hope. The rodent is seen as a symbol for conservation and inspiration for those who believe that even the smallest creatures in the world can be saved from profound changes in the ecosystem.

As Roach said in an interview, [QUOTE]: “This is a species that may take some patience to find again; I mean it went over 100 years without being documented!”

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