COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (Reuters) -- Sri Lankan biologists have found dozens of new species of tree frog over the last decade in the island's dwindling rainforests, but warn many known species are either extinct or on the verge of disappearing because of man.
Researchers from Sri Lanka's privately-funded Wildlife Heritage Trust found 35 new species of frog -- increasing the number of known frog species on the Indian Ocean island by a third -- but also found 19 species are now extinct.
"(They) have gone extinct largely because of the loss of their habitat... The land has now been converted to other uses like tea and rubber," biologist Rohan Pethiyagoda, whose team's research has been published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology [Supplement No. 12], told Reuters on Wednesday.
"The long-term prospect is pretty bleak," he added. "We know that 11 of these species are on the brink. They are likely to disappear in the next few years unless extensive conservation measures are taken."
Asia's tsunami offered a small silver lining for the tiny frogs, which range from iridescent green to pale blue in color and cling to foliage with bulbous, sucker-like toes.
The Sri Lankan government has banned rebuilding on a narrow strip of land along much of the island's coastline after December's disaster killed nearly 40,000 people here, and the new coastal buffer zone will offer some species sanctuary.
"It's not going to protect the vast majority of species, but it will certainly protect 10 of them, and 10 is a big number, so it will help," Pethiyagoda said.
Sri Lanka is home to 105 species of frog, 86 of which still survive today, which compares to around 4,500 known species of frog worldwide.
But most live in the largely unprotected rainforests of Sri Lanka's southwest, and not in the the island's national wildlife reserves, which tend to be drier, less biologically diverse and home to large mammals such as elephants, bears and leopards.
"What is most staggering is that out of the 34 species of frogs altogether that are extinct worldwide, half should happen to be in this tiny little island," Pethiyagoda said.
His team also found 17 new types of freshwater crabs, while fellow international researchers have also identified 50 new species of snail and seven new lizards.
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