An ambitious plan is underway to rediscover species that are lost to science and possibly extinct. NGO Re:Wild has started a campaign to find 25 species on its “Most Wanted Lost Species” list. In their latest discovery, the scientists have reconnected with a lost crab in Sierra Leone.
So far, the organization has also found the Jackson’s climbing salamander in Guatemala, Wallace’s giant bee & velvet pitcher plant in Indonesia, the silver-backed chevrotain in Vietnam, the Somali Sengi in Djibouti, Voeltzkow’s chameleon in Madagascar, and the Fernandina giant tortoise in the Galápagos.
Dr. Pierre A. Mvogo Ndongo, a researcher at the University of Douala in Cameroon, set out on an expedition to Sierra Leone earlier this year. The goal of the trip was to look for the Sierra Leone crab, which had not been spotted since 1955. In just three weeks of surveying, Dr. Ndongo found the missing crab.
The researchers also found another freshwater crab, Afzelius’ crab, which had been missing from the scientific record since 1796. To top it off, the team discovered two crabs that are brand new to science.
Dr. Ndongo explains that the expedition was demanding, but he was determined to succeed. Before setting out to find the Afzelius’ crab, he talked with locals and described a land dwelling crab with a purplish body and orange legs.
After following up on some false leads, Dr. Ndongo eventually located the crab, which led to concerns for the future of the species. The forest where the crab was found is largely intact, but agriculture is starting to encroach on the edges.
To find the Sierra Leone crab, Dr. Ndongo searched Sugar Loaf Mountain, racing against the clock as impending COVID-19 lockdowns threatened to strand him.
“In the four days searching the dense forests on Sugar Loaf Mountain, I was able to find six specimens of the Sierra Leone crab because I was able to recruit local people to go into the forest and search with me. When I found the Sierra Leone crab, I was very very happy. This was after almost three weeks of searching for lost species.”
After grueling searching and carefully digging crabs from their burrows without harming them, conservationists finally have the tools they need to protect these crustaceans, so, hopefully they won’t go missing again.