JERUSALEM They thought it had croaked. But missing for a half-century and listed as extinct in 1996, the Hula painted frog has been spotted again in northern Israel, its only known habitat.
"The species now has another chance to survive," Israel's Nature and Parks Authority said on Thursday, reporting that one of its inspectors had come across the frog in the Hula Valley and that it had been placed in a protective facility.
Only five Hula painted frogs have ever been collected. Four were found in 1940 and one in the 1950s, when most the valley's marshes were drained in efforts to eradicate malaria and make the land arable.
Part of the wetlands was turned into a nature reserve, but fruitless searches for the frogs over the years led experts to conclude that the species, "Discoglossus nigriventer", had not survived the blow to its habitat.
In 1996, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources declared the Hula painted frog extinct. Blaming habitat loss and fungal disease, the IUCN believes nearly a third of the world's amphibian species are endangered or extinct.
The Israeli nature authority said it appears the Hula painted frog bounded back after more water was diverted to the Hula region three years ago to reverse the ecological damage caused when the marshes disappeared.
The frog sports a dark belly with small white spots, and other colors include ochre and rust grading into dark olive-grey and grey-black.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)