Amphibian conservationist recognized by Whitley Award
08 October 2012 | Article
Carlos Vásquez Almazán, a member of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, received a 2012 Whitley Award in May 2012 in recognition of his outstanding amphibian conservation works in Guatemala.
Carlos is the Curator of Herpetology at the National University of San Carlos’s Museum of Natural History in Guatemala and Coordinator of the Amphibian Conservation Programme at the Foundation for Eco-development and Conservation (FUNDAECO), an NGO —and longstanding IUCN Member— dedicated to protecting Guatemala’s wildlife.
“I am very pleased with this award because all the effort was rewarded in the end,” said Carlos Vásquez Almazán, member of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group and 2012 Whitley Award winner. “Amphibians are not well known in Guatemala and this lack of information makes endemic amphibians highly vulnerable since they have no apparent value and receive no attention.”
Since 2008, Carlos has led efforts to re-survey amphibians that occur in ecologically important sites across the country. While doing this he has discovered new species and re-discovered species that were previously thought to be extinct.
In Guatemala, deforestation and expanding agriculture are threatening wildlife and the communities who rely on the forest for their livelihoods. Although, 30% of Guatemala is officially designated as being protected, the reality is that many forests are left unprotected against illegal logging and people collecting amphibians for the international pet trade.
In 2012, thanks to Carlos’ findings, Guatemala’s first reserve for amphibians was declared, providing protection to five Critically Endangered, five Endangered, and two Vulnerable species of amphibians, of which four are endemic to Sierra Caral. Carlos will use his Whitley award to support the initial protection of this reserve including the training of members of the community to be park guards and wildlife guides. The project is also currently receiving support from SOS – Save Our Species.
The Whitley Award will also be used to tackle pressures from surrounding communities, by supporting the launch of environmental education activities and the initial involvement of local community members, particularly youth and women, in ecotourism.
Carlos will personally survey and oversee the protection of key habitats for amphibians within the Reserve and will support environmental education activities in neighboring communities. The project will also allow Carlos to continue his work in order to identify and protect the most threatened Amphibian Alliance of Zero Extinction sites across the country.
“I am sure that this work to raise awareness about critically threatened, and endemic, amphibian species and their habitats will impact directly on the development of actions and mechanisms for their conservation,” added Carlos Vásquez Almazán. “It is my hope that future generations will still be able to enjoy these fascinating animals.”
For more information please contact:
Carlos Vásquez Almazán, Curator of Herpetology, Museum of Natural History, University of San Carlos of Guatemala. e: email@example.com