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Surprise!

December 24, 2015

This Christmas, celebrate 5 animals that weren't extinct after all.

They were once feared wiped out. Gone the way of dinosaurs, the dodo, and the passenger pigeon. But we shouldn't have counted these rare species out.

1. Cross River Gorillas

Cross River gorillas live in the forests of Cameroon and Nigeria, where the Cross River passes over the border of the two countries. One of two subspecies of the Western gorilla, they had not been seen for nearly 20 years when they were rediscovered in 1987 by a team of young British and American conservationists, including Mike Fay, now of WCS.

Still, there are only between 200 and 300 left, making them the most endangered African ape. Illegal hunting for the bushmeat trade, and habitat loss to logging and agriculture are the principal threats to their survival.


2. Palawan Forest Turtles

Popular with collectors and consumers, these rare turtles are prized by poachers. So much so, they were believed to be gone completely until their rediscovery in 2004. They're still critically endangered. Earlier this year, over 3,800 were seized during a warehouse raid in the Philippines (including the one here, shown receiving veterinary care). That was more than the worldwide population estimates at the time.

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Photo Credit: ©WCS/Lisa Eidlin

3. Bouvier's Red Colobus Monkey

A rare primate native to the Republic of Congo, this species was once known only from a few museum specimens. For a while, some feared it had disappeared completely. In 2007 and 2014, it was recorded on WCS surveys.

Then in 2015, a pair of independent researchers found a group of them along the Bokiba River in Ntokou-Pikounda National Park. They captured the first photograph of the species—this one of a female adult and infant.

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Photo Credit: Lieven Devreese

4. Jerdon's Babbler

Much of this small bird's native grasslands in Myanmar were swallowed up by human development. For a while, it was feared gone. But in 2014, a WCS-led team was surveying the site of an abandoned agricultural station and heard the bird's distinct call. Over the next 48 hours, the team found several Jerdon's babblers in the area.

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Photo Credit: Robert Tizard/WCS

5. Myanmar Roofed Turtle

This turtle was believed extinct until 2001, when a pair of researchers found a single shell from a recently killed animal at a village along the Dokhtawady River. Subsequently, live ones were discovered at a wildlife market in China and in the ponds of a pagoda in Mandalay. In April, WCS and the Turtle Survival Alliance announced that 60 captive-raised Myanmar roofed turtles had been released into their native habitat in Myanmar.

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Photo Credit: Steve and Kalyar Platt/WCS – TSA

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