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Multicolored Rainbow Toad, “Missing” since 1924, is Found in Borneo

Atelopus certusThe Borneo Rainbow or Sambas Stream Toad, Ansonia latidisca, is known only from drawings made by its discoverer, and has not been seen in 87 years.  Extensive development of its only known habitat has long raised fears of its extinction.  This month (July, 2011), however, it became the second of the world’s “Ten Most Wanted” amphibians to be rediscovered.

“Ten Most Wanted”

In 2010, Conservation International launched the Global Search for Lost Amphibians (please see article below).  Since then, several very rare frogs and salamanders have been found, but the tiny Borneo Rainbow Toad has remained elusive.  In fact, only one of the 10 species granted highest priority (the Ten Most Wanted) had turned up – Ecuador’s Spotted Stubfoot Toad, Atelopus balios.  However, a 3-month-long search of the Gung Penrisser Mountains in Sarawak, western Borneo, revealed that the Rainbow Toad is still with us.

Finding a Long-Lost Amphibian

Prominent herpetologist Indraneil Das, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at several conferences, led the search, which was held after nightfall among trees along high mountain ridges.  Despite being brilliantly clad in red, yellow, purple, black and green, the aptly named Rainbow Toad is a mere 2 inches in length, nocturnal, and lives above ground – not an easy creature to find.  But Dr. Das’ team prevailed, and 3 individuals were finally located in their arboreal hideaways.

An Uncertain Future

The Borneo Rainbow Toad is known from only two locations and likely has a tiny total range.  Unfortunately, most of its habitat has been converted to golf courses and farmland, and the only streams in which its tadpoles were once found are subject to runoff and heavy siltation.  Prospects for the creature’s future are dim, but conservation measures are being discussed.

Atelopus certusMost missing and newly-discovered frogs are tiny, drab creatures that, unfortunately, excite only diehard amphibian enthusiasts.  The Borneo Rainbow Toad is, however, a beautiful little beast.  For this reason, the exact site of its rediscovery is being held in confidence, lest collectors move in.

Other Unusual “New” Frogs

Some surprisingly large and interesting amphibians have been found in recent years, including Thailand’s Bird Eating Frog and the world’s only known Lung-less Frog, a native of Borneo.






Further Reading

Borneo Rainbow Toad Natural History

Drawings and Photos of the Borneo Stream Toad

2010’s Amphibian Discoveries

Photos and info, “Ten Most Wanted Amphibians”

Atelopus certus image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Brian Gratwicke


  1. avatar

    very interesting frank! Thanks
    where do you keep finding these great news 😛

    • avatar

      Hello Mike, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks…glad you enjoyed.

      I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with herps in zoos all my life, and so have useful personal contacts and an interest that compels me to read some of the professional journals and so on. Lots more coming through on the internet, of course, but some of the odder bits still buried in Herpetologica and the like.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Do you know what rainbow toads eat abd who they are related to?

    • avatar

      Hello Lucy,

      The genus to which this toad belongs contains 23 other species found in south and Southeast Asia; none have been well studied. Most live along swift streams that run through forested areas. Only 2 Rainbow Toads have ever been found, so there is no information on their diet; like related species, they are presumed to feed upon small leaf-litter invertebrates such as small ants, termites, springtails and beetles. You cane read more about its natural history here. Best regards, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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