The story of the Hula Painted Frog Discoglossus nigriventer is a classic example of the destructive impact of man upon wetlands. The Hula Valley in Israel was once a thriving wetland and an important agricultural region. The area had several endemic vertebrates associated with it such as Acanthobrama hulensis, an endemic Carp and Tristramella intermedia, an endemic Cichlid as well as the Frog. Unfortunately the area was a major breeding ground for Mosquitoes and Malaria and in 1951 the Jewish National Fund began the drainage of the wetland which was completed by 1958. As a result populations of both fish quickly declined and were declared extinct.
What remains of the Hula Valley Wetlands
A small area was recreated however and became Israel's first nature reserve, despite this the area remained severely degraded and repeated searches failed to find any evidence of the frog and in 1996 it was offically declared extinct.
Until this year however when a single female was discovered on the 16th of November during a routine search and a second individual was found on the 29th. The population here must be tiny, but hopefully some serious conservation measures can now be implemented. There also remains the tantalising possibility that the species is hiding out somewhere in Lebanon following a possible sighting in 2000 in the Aammiq Marshes.
Below are some of the first pictures of the Frog by Sarig Gafny.