Amphibian action sees results

22 December 2009 | News story

The benefits that we can gain from amphibians - frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians - are numerous and wide-ranging. They serve us as a source of food and medicine, as an object of medical research, as a trade product, and as an important element of cultural rituals or entertainment. And yet, nearly a third of all known amphibian species are globally threatened or extinct, with more unknown species likely to be endangered.

However, a new partnership between IUCN’s Amphibian Specialist Group, IUCN Netherlands, Conservation International-Colombia and other conservation organizations in Colombia, has proved that it is possible to protect this unique group of species. It has also shown how much of the world’s biodiversity is yet to be discovered.

Colombia has more threatened amphibians than any other country. They mostly live in subtropical and montane forests, which remain unprotected and are threatened with agricultural expansion. However, a group of ecologists recently found 200 acres of surviving forest within the Central Cordillera, an area of the largest concentration of coffee production in South America, almost denuded of natural forests. Not only did the area contain many threatened amphibians but it also yielded numerous previously undescribed species, including Swainson’s poison frog and the little golden poison frog. As the forest was being cleared for avocado and coffee plantations and the unique biodiversity within it would soon be lost, immediate action was necessary:

“I negotiated with different land owners of the 200-acre forest to stop clearing forest and sell the land to the national conservation NGO, Fundación ProAves. The owners agreed, so I immediately approached the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group and IUCN Netherlands for emergency support,” said Alonso Quevedo, President of Fundación ProAves. The organizations provided the necessary support in order to purchase the land and ensure its long term protection and management, launching the new ‘Ranita Dorada Amphibian Reserve.’

This is just one example of successful action that has resulted in protecting and enhancing biodiversity. Many more conservation measures are urgently needed to save amphibians from extinction, particularly as they are highly sensitive to deforestation and climate change, the impacts of which are becoming more and more apparent. As our own health is linked to their survival, amphibians are certainly worth fighting for.