Secluded Safe Haven for Frogs as Global Extinctions Rise
Bogotá, Colombia – Scientists today announced the discovery
of 10 amphibians believed to be new to science, including a spiky-skinned,
orange-legged rain frog, three poison dart frogs and three glass frogs, so
called because their transparent skin can reveal internal organs.
The species were discovered during a recent Rapid Assessment Program (RAP)
expedition in Colombia’s mountainous Tacarcuna area of the Darien, near the
border with Panama. The expedition was led by herpetologists from Conservation
International (CI) in Colombia and ornithologists from the Ecotrópico
Foundation, with the support of the local Emberá community of Eyakera.
IN PHOTOS: View the new discoveries in a
Over a period of three weeks, the scientists identified approximately 60
species of amphibians, 20 reptiles and almost 120 species of birds, many of them
apparently found no where else.
The potentially new species of amphibians include three glass frogs of the
Nymphargus, Cochranella and Centrolene genus; three
poison dart frogs of the Dendrobatidae family (Colostethus,
Ranitomeya and Anomaloglossus genera), one harlequin frog of
the Atelopus genus, two species of rain frogs of the Pristimantis
genera and one salamander of the Bolitoglossa genus. Colombia
holds one of the most diverse amphibian communities in the world, with 754
species currently recorded.
In addition to the new discoveries, the expedition recorded the presence of
large mammals such as Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii), listed on the
IUCN Red List as Endangered in Colombia, and four species of monkeys, including
Geoffroy’s spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), Geoffroy’s tamarin or red
crested bare-faced tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi), white-throated
capuchin or Gorgona white-fronted capuchin (Cebus capucinus) and the
mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata). They also found populations
of white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari).
Other surprising findings included the presence of Central American species
recorded for the first time in the northern area of South America, including a
salamander (Bolitoglossa taylori), a rain frog (Pristimantis
pirrensis), a small lizard (Ptychoglossus myersi) and a snake not
“Once more we confirm we are leaders in natural diversity and not only in our
region but in the world. Without a doubt this discovery represents a great
milestone for science and human health,” said Colombia’s Minister of Environment
Scientists consider amphibians important indicators of ecosystem health. With
porous, absorbent skin, they often provide early warnings of environmental
degradation caused by acid rain, or contamination from heavy metals and
pesticides that can also harm people. Amphibians help control the spread of many
diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, because they eat the insects that
deliver these diseases to human populations. In addition, amphibians are
extremely susceptible to unusual weather variations, with many species impacted
by climate change.
“Without a doubt this region is a true Noah’s Ark. The high number of new
amphibian species found is a sign of hope, even with the serious threat of
extinction that this animal group faces in many other regions of the country and
the world,” said Jose Vicente Rodriguez-Mahecha, Scientific Director of
This area of the Darien is isolated from the Andes Mountain range. It is
recognized as a center of endemism and valuable for its high biological
diversity. Historically it has served as a bridge for exchange of flora and
fauna between North and South America.
Although the natural cover of the Darien region is currently relatively
undisturbed, it faces many threats and is undergoing rapid landscape
transformation, mainly due to selective wood extraction, extensive cattle
ranching, illicit crop cultivation, hunting, mining and habitat fragmentation.
Between 25 and 30 percent of the natural vegetation of the area is being
deforested, especially in the lowlands and alluvial plains.
Results of the expedition are expected to contribute to strengthening the
protected area status that applies to almost all the Colombian Darien region,
and to help bring about the declaration of a new protected area in the Tacarcuna
hills. In addition, an important goal is to support initiatives that guarantee
the land rights for the indigenous Emberá community of Eyakera through the
creation of an Indigenous Reserve, and the development of management plans
appropriate for the area and its population.
The identity and names of the new found species will be presented to the
scientific community and the environmental authorities to evaluate
their conservation status or risk of extinction.
For photos of the new species please, click on here. Photos are copyright of Conservation
International (CI), and their use requires credit to the organization and
Phone: (703) 341-2601
Phone: (703) 341-2729
Latin American Media:
Patricia Yakabe Malentaqui
Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in
science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth’s
richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human
societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more
than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives
without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit
CI’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) was created in 1990 to
quickly provide the biological information necessary to catalyze conservation
action and improve biodiversity protection. The purpose of the program is to
produce appropriate and realistic conservation recommendations in a time frame
suited to managers and decision-makers. RAP expeditions bring together teams of
tropical field biologists to conduct rapid, first-cut assessments of the
biological value of selected areas. RAP scientists collect and analyze the
diversity of selected groups of organisms and use this information to provide
recommendations for biodiversity conservation.
The Ecotrópico Foundation-Colombia is a not-for-profit
non-governmental organization, working for the conservation of neo-tropical
ecosystems and building capacity of local organizations to achieve sustainable
use of biological resources.