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Monday, July 28 2014 @ 06:17 AM EDT

Frog native to Lake Hula, once believed extinct, is placed on endangered list instead

Environmental IssuesBy Zafrir Rinat - A rare frog that was once classified as being extinct has gotten a lifeline of sorts: It is now on a list of 100 animals, plants and fungi threatened with extinction.

Scientists had believed the Hula painted frog became extinct after the Hula Lake was drained in the 1950s, which caused a myriad of environmental ills. But they revised that classification after a ranger who worked for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority found a female specimen of the frog in the Hula Valley last November.

Still, scientists have doubts whether enough members of the Hula painted frog remain to ward off its extinction.

Also on the list, entitled "Priceless or Worthless," were: Tarzan's chameleon, the spoon-billed sandpiper and the Pygmy three-toed sloth. The list, released yesterday, was compiled by some 8,000 environmentalists and scientists from international organizations. They worked together under the aegis of the Zoological Society of London and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The purpose of the list is to prompt public discussion about the importance of preserving these endangered species. "The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a 'what can nature do for us' approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritized according to the services they provide for people," said Prof. Jonathan Baillie, the zoological society's director of conservation.

"This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?"

The list of 100 endangered species covers 48 countries, and includes species of plants, animals and fungi of which only several dozen, or sometimes fewer, members remain in nature. One highly-threatened animal is the Pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), whose sole habitat is Escudo Island, ten miles off the coast of Panama. This type of sloth is about half the size of its mainland cousins, and is the smallest and slowest type of sloth in the world. It is classified as "critically endangered," partly as a result of the work of fisherman in the area.

The report also mentions the so-called Asian unicorn, or the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis ), one of the most threatened mammals in southeast Asia. There may be only a few dozen of these antelopes left in the world today.

"All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back," said Ellen Butcher of the Zoological Society of London, coauthor of the report. "However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist."

"If we believe these species are priceless it is time for the conservation community, government and industry to step up to the plate and show future generations that we value all life," added Professor Baillie.

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