Lost and Found

'Zombie' species: 7 'extinct' animals rediscovered by science

Peek into nature’s lost-and-found bin.

Originally Published: 

Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images,

In recent years, several animals — previously thought to be extinct — have been rediscovered, much to the delight of scientists and conservationists.

Scientists refer to these 350-odd species as the “Lazarus taxon,” having been raised from the supposed dead, much like their biblical namesake.

Valter Weijola

Here are 7 ‘lost-and-found animals’ that scientists have rediscovered in the last five years.

1. The black-browed babbler

Meet Asia’s greatest vanishing act.

M. Suranto / New York Times

The black-browed babbler of Borneo mysteriously vanished for 170 years, before reappearing in an Indonesian forest in early 2021.

2. New Ireland monitor lizard

Although Varanus douarrha — a monitor lizard on the island of New Ireland in northern Papua New Guinea – was discovered in the early 19th century, the specimen was lost in a shipwreck.

Valter Weijola

Valter Weijola of the University of Turku, Finland “re-discovered” the monitor lizard in 2017 — thousands of years after most of the species on the island were thought to be lost due to human colonization.

3. Voeltzkow’s chameleon

Voeltzkow’s chameleon (Furcifer voeltzkowi) was MIA for 100 years.

Kathrin Glaw.

However, a German team of researchers rediscovered it in Madagascar in 2018.

According to a study published in 2021, this chameleon’s short lifespan — several months during the rainy season — could help explain why it went ‘missing’ for so many years.

Karin Glaw
4. Pharohylaeus lactiferus

The native Australian bee (Pharohylaeus lactiferus) was last seen in 1923 in Queensland. However, it was rediscovered in 2021.

James Dorey Photography

Habitat loss, primarily due to bushfires, has made this bee a rarity in Australia.

5. Fernandina giant tortoise

The Fernandina giant tortoise (Chelonoidis phantasticus) was missing for 112 years.

Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images

But a female giant tortoise — likely more than 100 years old — was finally found in 2019, after rangers followed up on a trace of feces. Additional animal tracks suggest there may be more giant tortoises in the Galapagos National Park.

6. Somali elephant shrew

The Somali elephant shrew or Somali Sengi (‘Elephantulus’ revoilii) had been considered a “lost species” since the early 1970s.

Steven Heritage at Global Wildlife Conservation

But scientists rediscovered the tiny creature in 2020, finding that the animal had actually expanded its range from native Somalia to the Republic of Djibouti.

7. Silver-Backed Chevrotain

This peculiar, deer-like, rabbit-sized, hoofed mammal (Tragulus versicolor), was seemingly lost to the world in 1990 when a hunter killed the last-seen specimen.

But the mouse-deer surprised a joint Vietnamese-Russian research team when it showed up in their camera traps — for the first time in nearly 30 years — in 2018.

Read more Nature stories here.

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