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Big Puma Fungus
Scientific Name: Austroomphaliaster nahuelbutensisLast Seen: 1988 in South AmericaYear Found: 2024Years Lost: 36Red List Status: Not Evaluated

The Big Puma Fungus — otherwise known as Nahuelbuta Austroomphaliaster (try saying that five times fast, or even once!) — is officially the first-ever member of the fungi kingdom to feature on Rewild’s 25 most wanted lost species list. Described for the first time in 1988 by Garrido in Bibliotheca Mycologica, this fungus is endemic to the Cordillera de Nahuelbuta a mountain range in the temperate forest of South America, with which the fungus also shares a name. In the Mapuzungun language nahuel is the word for “puma,” and buta is the word for “big.” Not much is known about the Big Puma Fungus, which is one of the reasons we are SO excited by the possibility it may be rediscovered again by some of the world’s most tenacious mycologists — experts and aspirants are both welcome. One of the things we DO know is that Austroomphaliaster is currently considered a monotypic genus, which means that the Big Puma Fungus might be the only one of its kind out there. 

Twelve lost species from around the world have been found. Species rediscoveries like these have the power to catalyze conservation actions. Each new rediscovery has reminded us that we can find hope in even the most unlikely situations and that these stories of overlooked, but fascinating species can be a powerful antidote to despair.

Fagilde’s Trapdoor Spider
Scientific Name: Nemesia berlandiLast Seen: Before 1931 in PortugalYear Found: 2023Years Lost: 92Red List Status: Not Evaluated

Fagilde’s Trapdoor Spider was described for the first time in 1931 based on two females collected outside a small village in north-central Portugal. No males have ever been found — as far as we know, but males of this group wander in search of females, and tap dance at the female’s door to mate. If this species survives today, there’s a chance locals might have seen them without knowing what they were looking at (including in their own homes!). In
2011, Dr. Sergio Henriques uncovered clues to the whereabouts of Fagilde’s Trapdoor Spiders, and insights into their secret lifestyles, hidden underground. Unlike other Nemesia spiders, which make their homes in vertical traps, perpendicular to the ground, young Fagilde’s Trapdoor Spiders build their traps horizontally. It is the only Nemesia spider we know of that does this.

In a 2021 expedition, Dr. Henriques returned to the search and found spiders, but still must confirm whether this is our coveted spider species or another Nemesia spider. Though his team found more tantalizing clues and one trapdoor spider, future expeditions will reveal whether this is our lost spider species or a different species. Many lost species require several searches over many years to find! The Fagilde’s Trapdoor Spider is vulnerable to wildfires, agriculture, and urban development, but hope remains as long as there are arachnologists out there to help look for this fuzzy tap-dancer.

De Winton's Golden Mole
Scientific Name: Cryptochloris wintoniLast Seen: 1936 IN SOUTH AFRICAYear Found: 2023Years Lost: 87Red List Status: Critically Endangered

The 21 species of golden moles, most of which occur only in South Africa, show many unique traits. They have an oily secretion that lubricates the fur with an iridescent sheen and gives rise to the name "golden mole," even though most are not golden in color. They have distinctive skeletal characteristics that enhance hearing underground so they can detect prey (since they are blind) and very unusual brain anatomy suggesting advanced navigation abilities based on a "sixth sense" that allows them to remember muscular activity patterns, known as "kinesthesia."

De Winton's Golden Mole is particularly threatened because it occurs in a very small area where natural habitat is threatened by large-scale alluvial diamond-mining operations. Re:wild has partnered with South Africa's Endangered Wildlife Trust to use new techniques in search of the lost mole, including eDNA, thermal imaging and scent detection using a trained sniffer dog. In 2021, the team collected more than 100 soil samples from different sites in Port Nolloth on the northwest coast of South Africa. They are testing the samples for environmental DNA (eDNA), hoping to discover if the golden mole they have detected is De Winton’s Golden Mole or a new species to science.

Attenborough's Long-beaked Echidna
Scientific Name: Zaglossus attenboroughiLast Seen: 1961 in IndonesiaYear Found: 2023Years Lost: 62Red List Status: Critically Endangered

If Attenborough’s Long-beaked Echidna is still out there, it is one of just five surviving species of monotreme, an ancient clade of egg-laying mammals found only in Australia and New Guinea, whose origins go back to the Jurassic era some 160 million years ago. This species is the smallest and likely most threatened of three long-beaked echidna species, and is known only from a single individual collected by a Dutch botanist during an expedition to the Cyclops Mountain in 1961. Interviews with locals suggest that the animal may still be present in the mountains.

Pernambuco Holly
Scientific Name: Ilex sapiiformisLast Seen: 1838 in Brazil Year Found: 2023Years Lost: 185Red List Status: Critically Endangered

A world of mystery surrounds the Pernambuco Holly, a species of holly tree endemic to Brazil that has evaded scientists for almost two centuries. It is known only from one sample collected from an obscure location in the Atlantic Forest, which stretches along the Atlantic coast of South America. When the first colonists arrived half a millennia ago, the Atlantic Forest was estimated to cover an area of at least 390,000–580,000 square miles. Today, more than 85% of it has been lost to deforestation as forest has been transformed into pasture for cattle and sugar cane plantations.

Pernambuco Holly is believed to inhabit a very small corner of the Atlantic Forest, where it awaits rediscovery by a group of tenacious explorers. 

Jackson’s Climbing Salamander
Scientific Name: BOLITOGLOSSA JACKSONILast Seen: 2017 IN GUATAMALAYear Found: 2017Years Lost: 42Red List Status: Critically Endangered

In 2017, the Jackson’s Climbing Salamander, aka the “golden wonder,” became the first of Re:wild’s top 25 most wanted lost species to be rediscovered. After partners at FUNDAECO hung up posters and educated park guards at the Yal Unin Yul Witz Reserve about the salamander, one of those guards happened to catch sight of one during his lunch break. The reserve itself had been established only two years before by a consortium of international groups, including Re:wild, in part to help protect the Finca Chiblac Salamander and Long-limbed Salamander, which had both been rediscovered there in 2014. After the rediscovery of Jackson’s Climbing Salamander on the edges of the reserve’s border, Re:wild helped support an expansion of the reserve.

Jackson’s Climbing Salamander had not been seen since Paul Elias discovered the species in the mid-1970s and named it after colleague Jeremy Jackson. The salamander, an elusive cloud forest species that is adept at escaping human attention, eluded a 2014 expedition that Re:wild launched with Elias and Jackson to retrace their steps four decades later.

Wallace's Giant Bee
Scientific Name: MEGACHILE PLUTOLast Seen: 1981Year Found: 2019Years Lost: 38Red List Status: Vulnerable

Wallace’s Giant Bee was the second of the Search for Lost Species' top 25 "most wanted" species to be found. An independent search team that set out to find and photograph the bee—including natural history photographer Clay Bolt--rediscovered the species in 2019. 

Wallace's Giant Bee, with an estimated maximum wingspan of two and a half inches, is the largest bee on Earth. It was believed extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981 by American researcher Adam C. Messer, who found six nests on the island of Bacan and other nearby islands. It hasn’t been seen since. A 1984 paper touched on the life history of the bee, which exhibits uncommon communal behavior, and rediscovery offers the possibility of greater insight into the life of this fascinating creature. The species was originally collected by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in 1859.

Velvet Pitcher Plant
Scientific Name: NEPENTHES MOLLISLast Seen: 2019Year Found: 2019Years Lost: 101Red List Status: Data Deficient

In 2019, Re:wild confirmed the exciting rediscovery of this species by an independent team of botanists who trekked to a mountain in the most remote, true wilderness in Borneo in search of the Velvet Pitcher Plant.

Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants that use a deep cavity filled with digestive enzymes—a trap set for unsuspecting insects—to catch their meals. The Velvet Pitcher Plant was known only from the original specimens discovered in 1918.

Silver-backed Chevrotain
Scientific Name: TRAGULUS VERSICOLORLast Seen: 2019Year Found: 2019Years Lost: 28Red List Status: Data Deficient

The Silver-backed Chevrotain, a deer-like species the size of a rabbit or small cat, was the first mammal on our list of 25 most wanted lost species to be rediscovered. It was rediscovered by Re:wild and partners Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. Scientists published the rediscovery in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution in November of 2019. Re:wild, GreenViet, Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research have since found two more small populations of the species. 

Finding the chevrotain—also called a deer-mouse—had been one of the highest mammal conservation priorities in the Annamite Mountains. Before 2019, there had only been one record of the species since 1907.

The field team is studying how large and stable these populations of Silver-backed Chevrotains are, the exact distribution of the species, and the threats to its survival. They are using the information that they gather to develop and implement a conservation action plan that strengthens enforcement and protection of the species across its range, building on the increased enforcement already put in place at the site of rediscovery.

Donate to ensure we don't lose the Silver-backed Chevrotain to extinction!

Somali Sengi
Scientific Name: ELEPHANTULUS REVOILIILast Seen: 2020Year Found: 2020Years Lost: AT LEAST 51Red List Status: Data Deficient

In 2020, scientists published a paper in PeerJ announcing the rediscovery of the little Somali Sengi, one of Re:wild’s original top 25 most wanted lost species, which made headlines around the world. The year before, a team of scientists including Steven Heritage, the late Galen Rathbun, and Houssein Rayaleh set out to Djibouti in search of the eccentric insectivorous mammal. Using interviews with local communities and results from scat analysis, the team set a total of 1,259 live traps at 12 locations. They caught a Somali Sengi in the very first trap they set, saw 12 sengis in total, and took the first-ever photos and video of live Somali Sengis. The species had not been documented since before 1968 in Somalia.

This sengi species was among the least well-known of the world’s 20 species of sengis, making it one of the last big mysteries of African mammalogy. It was previously known to science only from 39 individuals collected up to hundreds of years ago and stored today at museums.

Sengi are very swift small mammals that don’t belong to the family of true shrews, but are in their own family that is more closely related to elephants than shrews. They have long noses (thus the elephant part of their name) that they use to probe for insect prey.

Fernandina Galápagos Tortoise
Scientific Name: CHELONOIDIS PHANTASTICUSLast Seen: 2019Year Found: 2019Years Lost: 113Red List Status: Critically Endangered

In 2021, scientists at Yale University, with support from Re:wild and other partners, confirmed a genetic match between the only individual Fernandina Galapagos Tortoise (or Fernandina Giant Tortoise)—collected in 1906—and a single female tortoise found during a 2019 expedition to Fernandina Island. The finding marked the seventh rediscovery of one of Re:wild’s original top 25 most wanted lost species and the longest lost on that list.

When the animal was found in 2019 on an expedition led by the Galápagos National Park Directorate and Galapagos Conservancy and supported by Discovery’s Animal Planet, the main question the team had to answer was whether she was, in fact the possibly extinct Fernandina Galapagos Tortoise or a different tortoise species in the form of an individual translocated from another island.

With that mystery solved, researchers will be trying to determine if there are other individuals on the island and, if so, whether they are also Fernandina Galapagos Tortoises. Fernandina Island is the youngest and least explored of the Galápagos Islands.

Sierra Leone Crab
Scientific Name: AFRITHELPHUSA LEONENSISLast Seen: 1955 IN WEST AFRICAYear Found: 2021Years Lost: 66

The Sierra Leone Crab is restricted to freshwater habitats in the Upper Guinea rainforest zone and known only from three crabs collected in 1955. Relatives of these crabs were recently rediscovered and have striking orange and purple coloration, an unusual inflated carapace and an unusual ecology—they climb trees! A search for this crab could also include a search for two other lost species in the Upper Guinea rainforest zone, Afzeli’s Crab (Afrithelphusa azfelli), which is known from two individuals collected before 1800, and Gerhilda’s Crab (Afrithelphusa gerhildae). All three species were likely lost because they live in obscure, out-of-the-way places such as trees, caves, mountain streams and cracks in rocks.

In 2021, Pierre A. Mvogo Ndongo, a lecturer and researcher, not only rediscovered the Sierra Leone crab (Afrithelphusa leonensis), but also found a species of freshwater crab lost to science since 1796, and discovered two crab species previously unknown to science.

Voeltzkow’s Chameleon
Scientific Name: FURCIFER VOELTZKOWILast Seen: 2020Year Found: 2020Years Lost: 107Red List Status: Not Evaluated

An expedition team’s two-week trip to northwestern Madagascar in 2018 in search of the lost Voeltzkow’s Chameleon (Furcifer voletzkowi) not only resulted in the successful rediscovery of the species, but the discovery that females are very colorful. The Voltzkow’s chameleon was the sixth of Re:wild’s top 25 “most wanted” lost species to be rediscovered, and its rediscovery is helping unlock the many secrets surrounding the cryptic species first described in 1893 and last seen in 1913 in Madagascar.

Frank Glaw, head of the Department of Vertebrates at the Zoologische Staatssammlung München, who led the expedition, which also included chameleon asset management ltd, the Swiss sponsor, represented by Carlos Zanotelli, and the University of Antananarivo in

Zoologische Staatssammlung München, chameleon asset management ltd

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