According to this MSNBC story, these creatures were thought to be extinct for 11 million years. Researchers learned of their existence last year from dead specimens found in local meat markets (the food kind). They released it back into the wild after taking photos. In the old days, researchers would have shot and stuffed it. An increasing awareness of the plight of our biodiversity is catching on. Catch and release fishing is a common practice now, although there will always be people who don’t give a rat’s ass.

This reminds me of the discovery of the Coelacanth (a fish that was also thought to be long extinct). Overfishing and specimen collecting have caused a serious decline in their numbers since 1989.

On a related issue, a letter to the May addition of Science explained how revealing the locations of new discoveries can lead to their downfall:

Immediately after being described, the turtle Chelodina mccordi from the small Indonesian island of Roti and the gecko Goniurosaurus luii from southeastern China became recognized as rarities in the international pet trade, and prices in importing countries soared to highs of $1500 to $2000 each. They became so heavily hunted that today C. mccordi is nearly extinct in the wild and G. luii is extirpated from its type locality. The salamander Paramesotriton laoensis from northern Laos was not known in the international pet trade prior to its recent description as a new species. Over the past year, Japanese and German collectors used the published description to find these salamanders, and they are now being sold to hobbyists in those countries.

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