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Scientists in Brazil rediscovered the believed-extinct Pernambuco Holly in Igarassu, marking a significant stride in global conservation efforts.

In a remarkable revelation, scientists in Brazil have unearthed a species of small holly tree, 'Ilex sapiiformis' or the Pernambuco holly, believed to have been extinct for nearly 200 years. This incredible find occurred in the urban locale of Igarassu, Pernambuco state, where a dedicated expedition spent six days in the pursuit of this elusive species. The conservation group Re:wild, responsible for this discovery, had listed the Pernambuco Holly among the top 25 most sought-after lost species, making this rediscovery a significant milestone since the inception of their Search for Lost Species in 2017.

The quest for lost species is a global initiative, spearheaded by Re:wild in collaboration with experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This initiative aims to locate over 2,200 species, considered missing across 160 countries, some of which have been lost to science for decades. The Pernambuco Holly is the ninth species to be rediscovered from this list, which includes both plant and animal species.

“Nature surprises us. Finding a species that hasn't been heard of in nearly two centuries doesn't happen every day. It was an incredible moment.”

Another member of the expedition said it was “like finding a long-lost and long-awaited relative that you only know by old portraits.”

According to Euronews, the expedition team identified four distinct Pernambuco Holly trees in Igarassu, a region that has undergone extensive urbanization but was once a lush tropical rainforest. The tiny white flowers of the trees were the identifying feature that led to this groundbreaking discovery. The rediscovery of a species, unheard of for nearly two centuries, has been likened to finding a long-lost relative known only through old portraits, highlighting the emotional and scientific significance of this find.

Expedition leader Gustavo Martinelli expressed hopes of initiating a breeding program for the rediscovered species. Re:wild plans to continue the search for more Pernambuco Holly trees, collaborating with local partners to better protect the forests housing this species and to establish a captive breeding program, ensuring the preservation and propagation of the Pernambuco Holly. This discovery underscores the enduring surprises nature holds and emphasizes the importance of conservation efforts in uncovering the hidden gems of our planet’s biodiversity.

Eunice is a sustainability writer whose passion is sharing accessible eco-friendly practices with GreenCitizen's global readership. She enjoys birdwatching during her downtime, often deriving inspiration from nature's resilience. An enthusiastic cyclist, she is also an ardent advocate of eco-friendly transport.

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