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We just found a rare sand-swimming golden mole we thought was extinct

Published Nov 30th, 2023 9:18PM EST
De Winton's Golden Mole walking on sand
Image: Nicky Souness / Endangered Wildlife Trust

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A rare sightless golden mole, thought to be extinct for over 80 years, has been rediscovered in South Africa. De Winton’s golden mole was last spotted in 1936, and for the last 80-plus years, wildlife enthusiasts have tried to find evidence of the rare mole.

Well, it seems all of their hard work has finally paid off, as the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) finally shared news of a rediscovery this week. According to a post shared by the EWT, the mole was found by dogs trained to sniff for it in South Africa. Unlike other moles, this blind mole doesn’t leave behind tunnels.

Instead, De Winton’s golden mole appears to swim through sand as if it were water. The mole is completely sightless and relies instead on supersonic hearing, which has likely helped them remain unseen for so long, as they can detect vibrations in the ground above their burrows.

De Winton's Golden Mole walking on sandImage source: JP Le Roux / Endangered Wildlife Trust

But there was more to the discovery than just spotting this rare golden mole along the sandy dunes of South Africa. Turns out there are other moles that look very similar. As such, scientists had to determine if the DNA from hair and other bodily excretions matched that of De Winton’s golden mole. Now, they’ve confirmed the match in a new paper published in Biodiversity and Conservation.

Rediscovering this rare golden mole is exciting, especially since it was considered one of the most wanted lost species on the planet by conservationists. The scientists say they also found evidence of two more common species of golden moles in the area, as well as that of another endangered species known as Van Zyl’s golden mole.

Ultimately, one of the senior conservation managers with EWT says that finding De Winton’s golden mole again came down to having the “right detection method” and the “proper timing”, as well as a team that was passionate about finding it again. That passion has paid off, though, and we can finally rejoice in the fact that these cute little moles aren’t actually extinct.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.