In late 2017, photographer Matthijs Kuijpers spent two days driving into the mountains in Suriname–armed with guns, because of the presence of illegal gold mining in the area–in search of a small toad covered in fluorescent pink splotches. It took another day of climbing before he reached the area, and another week of exploring. The photo he took captures a species, Atelopus hoogmoedi nassaui, that Kujipers says is so rare and threatened that it may have gone extinct since his expedition.
In a new book called Cold Instinct, currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, Kujipers shares portraits of rare reptiles and amphibians that he has taken over 27 years of work. Many are endangered, or may soon be, as humans drive habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Hundreds of species of frogs are nearing extinction because of a deadly fungus called chytrid. A recent UN report that says that one million species are at risk of extinction explains that amphibians are particularly threatened; around 40% of all known species, or 3,200 types of amphibians, are now at risk of extinction. Another new study estimates that 1,100 amphibians that aren’t currently on the global endangered species list because of a lack of data probably should be listed.
Most of these animals are little known, something that Kujipers hopes to change with his book. “I tried to give these animals a face and show the amazing diversity we have on this planet,” he says. Each animal is photographed on a black background to showcase its appearance; some species are so well camouflaged, like a toad that looks like a leaf, that they’re otherwise difficult to see. Kujipers has photographed 2,000 species of reptiles and amphibians to date. As his work continues, the new challenge is documenting those species before they no longer exist in the wild.