At least 351 species thought to be extinct have been rediscovered over the past 122 years, but most of them remain on the brink of extinction due to an extensive loss of habitat, according to a study by Singapore’s National University (NUS).

“Most rediscovered species have restricted ranges and small populations, and 92 per cent of amphibians, 86 per cent of birds, and 86 per cent of mammals are highly threatened, independent of how long they were missing or when they were rediscovered,” the university said in a statement.

The rediscovery of once-missing amphibians, birds, and mammals occurred mostly in the tropics, according to the study conducted by researchers from NUS together with colleagues from the University of Adelaide and Princeton University.

But “under the current trends of widespread habitat loss, particularly in the tropics, most rediscovered species remain on the brink of extinction,” warned the study.

“Rediscoveries, without aggressive conservation, likely represent the delayed extinction of doomed species and not the return of viable populations,” said lead researcher Brett Schefflers from the department of Biological Sciences at NUS. “In short, there is hope but we must step up rapid conservation efforts.” The 351 analysed species on average had been missing for 61 years before being rediscovered, said the study, adding that “this long duration makes conservation planning for missing species very difficult.” “Protected areas that have been put aside for a particular species that has not been seen for numerous years could have been converted for agricultural use,” said the study published in One magazine of the Public Library of Science.

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