Golden mole spotted in South Africa for first time in 86 years

South African researchers have announced that they have spotted traces of De Winton’s golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni). Until now, it was believed to have disappeared due to mining and the construction of residential areas along the beaches, where it lives. But for the first time in 86 years, the little animal is showing signs of life!
This is good news for biodiversity on the African continent. This blind animal measuring a few centimeters with a golden coat, hence its name had not been seen since 1937. It was the NGO Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and researchers from the University of Pretoria who made the announcement, Tuesday November 28, 2023. They say they have spotted at least six specimens of the species on beaches in northwest South Africa since 2021.
The hunt for this golden mole is akin to a police investigation. Scientists have in fact probed up to 18 km of tunnel each day since the mole is known to “swim” with great ease in the sand. Problem is, these tunnels often collapse just after passing through. She also has highly developed hearing and senses vibrations, which allowed her to stay away from humans for so long. A dog, an animal well known for its scent, was even asked to locate them precisely.
Finally, to ensure that they were indeed golden moles, the researchers used environmental DNA. They therefore looked for hairs, pieces of skin or even droppings in around a hundred sand samples. And the results are clear: they are golden moles. Scientists therefore say that it is still possible to save this species which was thought to be extinct.