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Necessary (Amphibian) Arrangements

08/07/2017

Staff
Azuay subfoot toad
Frog
Dr. Carlos and team host amphibian workshop
glass frogs
Azuay marsupial frog

We currently host assurance populations of six species of critically endangered local amphibians at the Amphibian Conservation Center -Zoo Amaru in Ecuador. These species are part of our International Conservation Breeding Program, which has the end goal of reintroducing these species back into the wild in protected habitats.
 
Three of these species (the Cuenca rocket frog, the Azuay marsupial frog and Nelson's borrowing frog) used to be common in the valleys and forests where now lies the city of Cuenca, the other three (the San Lucas marsupial frog, the black Cajad stubfoot toad, and the Azuay stubfoot toads) were once abundant in the high Andean Paramo grasslands and cloud forests in the mountains near Cuenca. The species living in the city have all but lost their habitat, and can still be found in some isolated spots within the city. This means that in order for us to reintroduce them, we need to ensure that this remaining populations keep their good habitat and that additional good habitat is created.
 
The mountain species however, disappeared mysteriously from what seemed to be good quality protected habitat in the 80's and 90's, and we are still trying to figure out why they vanished and why some individuals are now appearing all of a sudden. In this case, reintroducing them to the places where they disappeared might not be a good idea until we fully identify and mitigate the cause of decline, but supplementing existing populations with new individuals might have the species the boosts it needs.
 
As part of my trip to Ecuador, I have already met with staff from the Environmental Management Office of the City of Cuenca, to determine which urban sites are the best for potential reintroduction programs within the city and to help the city in their Urban Frogs Project, which encompasses a series of twelve frog ponds build at strategic localities within the City of Cuenca. Five of these frog ponds have been colonized by local marsupial frogs, and we are now devising a monitoring program with local volunteers to monitor these populations.
 

I also met with staff from the Ministry of the Environment and with local leaders from the Paramo grasslands of Gualaceo, Molleturo, and Sígsig, where stubfoot toads were once common and have disappeared, to determine the next steps and begin selecting potential sites for reintroduction of the Azuay stubfoot toad and other species in these Highland habitats.