‘Nature still surprises us’: Near-extinct Species Spotted for the First time in Over 200 Years

By: Georgia | Last updated: Nov 03, 2023

The Pernambuco holly, a tree previously thought to be extinct for nearly two centuries, has been rediscovered in the urbanized area of Igarassu, Brazil. 

This remarkable find has captured the attention of scientists and conservationists worldwide, shedding light on the resilience and unpredictability of nature.

The Expedition's Success

A dedicated team of explorers in Brazil has successfully located the Pernambuco holly after a six-day search. 

A close-up photograph of the Pernambuco holly tree showcasing its lush green leaves against a blurred natural background

Source: Fred Jordão/Re:wild

The tree, known for its distinctive tiny white flowers, was found growing in the midst of a city that has experienced significant urban development, a testament to its survival.


The Significance of the Find

The scientific community has been invigorated by the discovery of the Pernambuco holly. 

An aerial photograph capturing a dense forest with a variety of green trees

Source: Vlad Hilitanu/Unsplash

This event is a rare occurrence, as rediscovering a species missing for almost two centuries is an extraordinary achievement that provides invaluable insights into the conservation and study of biodiversity.

Emotional Reactions from the Discovery Team

The team’s reaction to the discovery of the Pernambuco holly was one of profound surprise and elation. 

A person standing next to the Pernambuco holly in a dense forest, holding a part of the tree.

Source: Gustavo Martinelli/Mongabay

Juliana Alencar, a member of the project team, described the moment as incredibly moving, akin to the world pausing in wonder at the news.

The Pernambuco Holly's Long Absence

The Pernambuco holly’s unexpected appearance after such a prolonged absence has been likened to the emotional experience of reconnecting with a long-lost relative known only through aged portraits.

A close-up image of Pernambuco holly flowers with an insect on it

Source: Fred Jordão/Re:wild

This discovery showcases the deep and enduring connection humans share with the natural world.

Conservation Efforts and the 'Most Wanted' List

The holly’s rediscovery is particularly significant as it was listed as the ninth “most wanted” lost species. 

A panoramic view of a dense, lush forest with various shades of green

Source: Waren Brasse/Unsplash

This designation is part of a broader effort by organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which seeks to locate and protect over 2,000 species around the globe.


Breeding Program Initiatives

Following this discovery, the team, led by Gustavo Martinelli, plans to establish a captive breeding program to ensure the continued survival of the Pernambuco holly. 

A focused image displaying the vibrant green leaves of the Pernambuco holly

Source: Fred Jordão/Re:wild

This initiative represents a proactive step towards safeguarding the species for future generations.


A Pattern of Resurgence Among Species

The Pernambuco holly is not alone in its resurgence. 

An image of a Santa Cruz kangaroo rat on the ground amidst scattered leaves and pebbles

Source: Ken Hickman/ Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

Other species like the Santa Cruz kangaroo rat have also been observed making comebacks in their native habitats, indicating a broader trend of resilience among wildlife.


The Rarity of Plant Resurgence in Media

While animal species often capture the public’s interest, plant species like the Pernambuco holly typically receive less attention.

A forest landscape featuring Pernambuco holly trees among various other vegetation

Source: Fred Jordão/Re:wild

 However, their role in ecosystems is equally vital, and their recovery is equally noteworthy.


The Ecological Role of Rediscovered Species

Plants such as the Pernambuco holly contribute significantly to their habitats and regional ecosystems. 

A detailed image of a Pernambuco holly branch showing green leaves and small undeveloped flower buds

Source: Fred Jordão/Re:wild

The discovery of such a species underscores the importance of plant life in global biodiversity and the need for its preservation.


The Discovery as a Symbol of Hope

The reemergence of the Pernambuco holly serves as a poignant reminder of the potential for recovery among species that are on the brink of extinction. 

Close-up image of a Pernambuco holly branch, focusing on a small white flower surrounded by green buds and leaves

Source: Fred Jordão/Re:wild

It stands as a symbol of hope for conservationists and scientists alike.


Looking to the Future

The remarkable rediscovery of the Pernambuco holly highlights the importance of continued conservation efforts. 

A focused view of a Pernambuco holly branch, displaying its vibrant green leaves

Source: Fred Jordão/Re:wild

It is a call to action for the protection of endangered species and a reminder of nature’s enduring capacity for regeneration.