Environment

“Lost City of the Monkey God” reveals treasure trove of rare, new and rediscovered species

“Lost City of the Monkey God” ...
A red-eyed tree frog was one of the amphibian species observed during an expedition to the Lost City of the Monkey God in Honduras
A red-eyed tree frog was one of the amphibian species observed during an expedition to the Lost City of the Monkey God in Honduras
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A thriving population of white-lipped peccaries was discovered in Honduras, which are struggling elsewhere on the continent thanks to deforestation
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A thriving population of white-lipped peccaries was discovered in Honduras, which are struggling elsewhere on the continent thanks to deforestation
Pumas appear to be relatively common in the area, according to the team
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Pumas appear to be relatively common in the area, according to the team
An endangered Baird's tapir, spotted on a camera trap
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An endangered Baird's tapir, spotted on a camera trap
A pair of Great Curassow, endangered in most other places but common in the City of the Jaguar habitat thanks to its isolation
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A pair of Great Curassow, endangered in most other places but common in the City of the Jaguar habitat thanks to its isolation
An Ornate Hawk-Eagle preying upon a Great Green Macaw. The eagle is near-threatened and the macaw is endangered
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An Ornate Hawk-Eagle preying upon a Great Green Macaw. The eagle is near-threatened and the macaw is endangered
A Great Green Macaw, which is extremely rare in other places but seems to be relatively common in the White City area
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A Great Green Macaw, which is extremely rare in other places but seems to be relatively common in the White City area
Cacao de monte fruits, which are used to produce chocolate, were found in the White City area
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Cacao de monte fruits, which are used to produce chocolate, were found in the White City area
A jaguar spotted on a remote camera trap
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A jaguar spotted on a remote camera trap
The tiger beetle was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery during this expedition
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The tiger beetle was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery during this expedition
The Morpho butterflies are some of the largest in the world
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The Morpho butterflies are some of the largest in the world
The Pale-Faced Bat was rediscovered in Honduras for the first time in over 75 years
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The Pale-Faced Bat was rediscovered in Honduras for the first time in over 75 years
A male harlequin beetle
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A male harlequin beetle
One of the campsites used by the research team
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One of the campsites used by the research team
This glass frog indicates that the waters of the White City are pristine
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This glass frog indicates that the waters of the White City are pristine
A venomous Eyelash Viper
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A venomous Eyelash Viper
The expedition area is home to a range of freshwater habitats
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The expedition area is home to a range of freshwater habitats
The expedition team. Left to right: (top) Onan Reyes, Travis King, John van Dort, Eric van den Berghe, Arnulfo Medina-Fitoria, Manfredo Turcios-Casco, Olvin Oyuela, Milton Salazar-Saavedra, Trond Larsen; (bottom) John Polisar, Carlos Funes, Josué Ramos (T. Larsen)
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The expedition team. Left to right: (top) Onan Reyes, Travis King, John van Dort, Eric van den Berghe, Arnulfo Medina-Fitoria, Manfredo Turcios-Casco, Olvin Oyuela, Milton Salazar-Saavedra, Trond Larsen; (bottom) John Polisar, Carlos Funes, Josué Ramos (T. Larsen)
A red-eyed tree frog was one of the amphibian species observed during an expedition to the Lost City of the Monkey God in Honduras
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A red-eyed tree frog was one of the amphibian species observed during an expedition to the Lost City of the Monkey God in Honduras
A rare salamander
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A rare salamander
Fresh water crabs found in the rivers of the White City area
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Fresh water crabs found in the rivers of the White City area
The false tree coral snake was discovered in Honduras for the first time since 1965
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The false tree coral snake was discovered in Honduras for the first time since 1965
The worm salamander is listed as highly vulnerable
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The worm salamander is listed as highly vulnerable

In 2012, centuries-old legends of a lost city in Honduras were confirmed when ancient ruins were rediscovered in the dense Mosquita rainforest. Now, scientists have conducted a three-week expedition to these ruins, known as the "White City" or the "Lost City of the Monkey God," and found a trove of natural treasures. Living in the pristine forests around the city is an incredibly rich array of wildlife, including species new to science, some unknown in the area, some that haven't been seen in decades and others that were believed extinct.

The White City lies at the heart of the Honduran Mosquita, 865,000 acres (350,000 hectares) of pristine and relatively unexplored rainforest. In 2017, a team of scientists led by the government of Honduras and Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), was taken via helicopter to a specific site called the City of the Jaguar, to conduct a three-week biological survey of the region.

The Morpho butterflies are some of the largest in the world
The Morpho butterflies are some of the largest in the world

The results have now shown that the area is home to an incredible biodiversity of animals and plants. Overall, the team identified 183 species of plants, 246 butterflies and moths, 198 birds, 22 amphibians, 35 reptiles, 13 fish, 40 small mammals and 30 medium to large mammals.

Of these, one species of poeciliid fish (or "molly") was found to be new to science. The team says that it's likely that other new species probably inhabit these clear waters, and importantly no invasive fish species were found in the area.

The false tree coral snake was discovered in Honduras for the first time since 1965
The false tree coral snake was discovered in Honduras for the first time since 1965

Three of the creatures were previously known but had been missing and feared extinct for decades. That includes the Pale-Faced Bat, which is common across South and Central America but hasn't been reported in Honduras in more than 75 years. The False Tree Coral Snake also made a reappearance in the country for the first time since 1965. And a certain species of tiger beetle was a surprising find, given it was both presumed extinct and before that, thought to be confined to Nicaragua.

In total, 22 of the observed species had never been recorded in Honduras before, including some extremely rare animals like the Great Green Macaw. The team also found a thriving population of white-lipped peccaries – a pig-like animal – which are widely struggling in other parts of the continent thanks to deforestation.

A jaguar spotted on a remote camera trap
A jaguar spotted on a remote camera trap

These abundant herbivores showed that human hunting was low in the surrounding areas, leaving these prey animals able to support a range of predators. That includes big cats like jaguars and pumas, which were spotted during the expedition. Ecosystems this healthy are hard to come by nowadays, the researchers say.

"Our team of scientists were shocked at the discovery of tremendously rich biodiversity, including many rare and threatened species," says Trond Larsen, Director of the Rapid Assessment Program. "The White City is one of the few areas remaining in Central America where ecological and evolutionary processes remain intact."

The rainforests and archaeological ruins around the City of the Jaguar and the rest of the White City will be protected and researched.

The full report was published on the Conservation International website.

Source: Conservation International

3 comments
Ra'anan
"evolutionary processes remain intact?" Natural selection is not evolution. Humans who work out in the gym & change their physiques are not "evolved."
ljaques
Hurray! Save and protect! What a gorgeous bunch of animals. The leopard looked very well fed and fit. The frog and snake were purty. My only charity for 4 decades has been the Nature Conservancy, but even they have become overrun by alarmists and aren't preserving as much land and as many animals as they used to as they spend more and more on trying to fix what they perceive as damaged by Crimate Chang. Sigh...
Nik
Unfortunately, this report may stimulate the hunters and collectors, to invade the area to collect as many specimens as they can, for their sale value, thereby confirming the supposed extinctions.