Elusive owl species spotted in the wild for the first time in 150 years
A pair of British researchers visiting Ghana could not believe their eyes when they inadvertently stumbled upon an incredibly rare species of owl that had not been seen in the wild for 150 years. The remarkable moment reportedly occurred earlier this month as Dr. Joseph Tobias and Dr. Robert Williams were conducting a study on the biology and ecology of the African nation. However, their project took a wholly unexpected turn when the duo was walking through the wilderness and accidentally wound up waking a large bird that was sleeping on a tree branch. When the two researchers got a look at the creature with their binoculars, Tobias recalled, "our jaws dropped."
The source of their astonishment was a Shelley’s Eagle Owl, a rather sizeable species of the iconic bird which was last officially seen in the wild at some point in the 1870s. So mysterious is the animal that, until now, there existed only a handful of photographs of the creature from when one had been kept in captivity at a Belgian zoo in 1975. Looking back on the moment that they observed the bird, Tobias marveled that "it was so large, at first we thought it was an eagle" until they realized that, in fact, they were looking at the 'lost' owl species. Fortunately, Williams was able to snap a clear picture of the elusive animal before their 15-second-long sighting came to an end.
The surprise encounter with the owl ought to quell fears that perhaps the species had gone extinct, since its prodigious size should have made it easier to find after all these years, yet it had remained in the proverbial shadows of the rainforest. To that end, Dr. Nathaniel Annorbah of Ghana's University of Environment and Sustainable Development declared that "this is a sensational discovery. We've been searching for this mysterious bird for years in the western lowlands, so to find it here in ridgetop forests of the Eastern Region is a huge surprise." The find should also give hope to those who believe that there just might be a Tasmanian Tiger or Ivory-Billed Woodpecker still in existence waiting for their moment of re-discovery.