Hope for PH: New frog species in Southern Leyte

Paterno Esmaquel II
Surprise! Experts discover new frog species in degraded forests of Southern Leyte

NEW SPECIES. This is how one of the newly discovered frog species in Southern Leyte looks like. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

MANILA, Philippines – No one thought these would come from Southern Leyte, a place whose degraded and highly fragmented forests have given the impression it is hopeless as far as discovering new species is concerned.

Experts, however, unveiled a surprising discovery on Tuesday, April 17: new frog species from the forests of the province, an area of critical biodiversity.

The 2 new species, belonging to the Platymantis guentheri and Platymantis hazelae groups, took the spotlight in a 2-hour event at the Museum of the Filipino People in Manila.

The frogs’ specimens, as well as images, were presented by representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Fauna and Flora International, the German development organization GIZ, and the National Museum.

The brown frog specimens measured about 43-55 millimetres (1.7 to 2.2 inches), while the yellow-green ones were 20 to 27 millimetres (0.8 to 1.1 inches) long. They have not yet been formally named.

‘Rich country’

Dr. Niel Aldrin Mallari, country director of Fauna and Flora International, sees this as a reason to appreciate and have hope in the Philippines’ biodiversity.

“What it’s telling us is that the Philippines is such a rich country. Most of us underestimate the beauty and the wealth of the Philippines. We learn lions and tigers earlier than we learn about our bayawaks,” Mallari told Rappler in an interview.

UNNAMED SPECIES. Here is the other new frog species that experts have yet to name. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

Scientists discovered not only frogs but 229 recorded flora and fauna species in Southern Leyte – 31 of which can only be found in the Philippines.

“It is anticipated that a significant number of species will be recorded (in) Southern Leyte with continued field sampling, especially if the surveys are conducted during the drier months of the year and if a wide range of habitat and elevation zones are sampled,” said a joint press release by the event’s organizers.

Save the trees

Mallari said the discovery also points to an urgent call for the government “to reconnect the fragmented areas,” or those that have been destroyed by moves to develop these places.

“Let’s rebuild our forests. Let’s allow the Philippines to heal,” he said.

His call coincides with that of protesters in Baguio City who have staged rallies to oppose SM Baguio’s cutting of pine trees as part of the mall’s expansion. 

US-based Conservation International lists the Philippines both as one of the 17 countries that harbour most of Earth’s plant and animal life, and a “biodiversity hotspot” due to massive habitat loss.

Theresa Lim, DENR’s wildlife protection chief, told the forum that despite this, the frogs and 36 new plant and animal species were discovered in the Philippines in the past 10 years.

“We have to do something. We don’t want them to disappear immediately after they are discovered,” she said. – Rappler.com, with a report from AFP

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.