By Mark Brown, Wired UK
A species of frog that was thought to have been made extinct during the notorious drainage of the Hula marshlands in Israel, has appeared again after more than 50 years of hiding.Hula painted frog (Discoglossus nigriventer) originally went missing when the Jewish National Fund drained the marshlands around the Hula Valley in the 1950s. The swamp was a breeding ground for malaria, and the disease was killing off the population.
The JNF removed the water from the swamp and redirected the flow of water to the river Jordan with artificial estuaries. But the operation led to numerous knock-on effects — the reclaimed land was useless for agriculture, toxins invaded the river and dumped peat routinely caught fire.
The disastrous operation also led to huge destruction of ecosystems, wiping out water plants, tropical aquatic ferns, the ray-finned fish Acanthobrama hulensis and the cichlid fish Tristramella intermedia. Until this week, it was thought that the hula painted frog was among the lost species.
But a routine patrol at the Ha’Hula lake by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority turned up a mysterious, unknown female frog and took it back to the lab for testing. It was soon confirmed that it was a Hula painted frog, and the rare species had hung on amongst the devastation of its habitat.
In the 1990s, intense flooding caused areas of the Hula valley to become flooded again, re-hydrating the parched swamplands. This time round, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel decided to leave it to nature.
Image: Conservation International/Professor Heinrich Mendelssohn