colombian frog3

Dagua (Colombia), June 11 (EFE).- The poisonous frog «Oophaga lehmanni», an endemic species of the Colombian Pacific, has paid for the sin of its beauty with its near extinction as a species due to illegal wildlife trafficking, an ecological crime from which it is beginning to recover.

This is because for the first time its reproduction has been achieved and almost thirty specimens were released to repopulate its habitat in the Colombian department of Valle del Cauca.

Its size is barely a couple of centimeters, but its colors are undoubtedly the ones that steal the attention of this species: wide red and black stripes run through its body warning, in turn, of how poisonous they can be.

It is a kind of frog with dart poison, which they secrete on their skin, whose natural habitat is the subtropical humid forest, something that is found in the Western Cordillera of the departments of Valle del Cauca and Chocó.

In the Anchicayá area, in the municipality of Dagua, the community has been taking care of the froglets, and will now be in charge of monitoring their evolution once they are released. “It is a great satisfaction to release this species that one has learned to love so much,” she tells Efe Eli López, a member of the community, excitedly.

“Every day I am gaining more love for it, I see it as a mission,” adds López, who is transmitting that passion for conservation and respect for this endangered species to his daughters, with whom he goes to the release of these amphibians.

These little frogs have a fairly high toxicity capacity, “they use it mainly to repel potential predators, who do not dare to consume them because they already know they are poisonous animals,” Carlos Galvis, chief population biologist at the Zoological Foundation, tells Efe. From Cali.

But “it is not a poison that they use to attack or cause damage to other organisms, it is just a defense mechanism,” in the words of the expert, who adds that their striking appearance is not the only reason for them to be the target of trafficking, but rather that its venom also has pharmaceutical potential.

“HISTORIC MOMENT”

It is a “historic moment” to help “this species does not disappear from the face of the Earth”, celebrated during the release of the frogs Marco Antonio Suárez Gutiérrez, general director of the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Valle del Cauca (CVC ).

Photograph of a frog Oophaga lehmanni after being released in the Colombian Pacific, on June 9, 2022, in Dagua, department of Valle del Cauca (Colombia). EFE / Ernesto Guzmán Jr.

An alliance of various entities, including the CVC, the Cali Zoo, the Universidad del Valle and the Wildlife Conservation Society Colombia, with the participation of the Ministry of the Environment, National Parks, the community of Anchicayá, the University of Los Andes, the Zurich Zoo and professionals have made it possible.

«It has not been an easy process, we have spent years standardizing all the processes. We have finally achieved the reproduction of these little animals, of this special endemic species that does not exist anywhere else in the world. For us it is an enormous happiness and satisfaction”, declares Galvis.

THE FROG AND THE COMMUNITY

This frog is critically endangered due to the large number of specimens that have been removed for illegal trade, in addition to the effects on its habitat. The traffickers buy them from the inhabitants of the areas where they live for 20,000 pesos (about 5 dollars), and then sell them on the black market for up to 5,000 dollars.

The same inhabitants of the area admit that, despite knowing of its existence, they had never been aware of the importance of this species until this project was proposed, in which they have been fully involved.

But the damage done is so serious that the conclusions of the experts determined that, even if the illegal traffic was completely stopped, the population is so decimated that it would not be able to recover naturally and its existence would fade until it disappeared. Hence the need to achieve its reproduction under human care.

colombian frog1
Photograph of a frog Oophaga lehmanni after being released in the Colombian Pacific, on June 9, 2022, in Dagua, department of Valle del Cauca (Colombia). EFE / Ernesto Guzmán Jr.

The inhabitants of the villages of El Placer and La Cascada participate in the release and monitoring of the areas where they will live, says Freddy Rebolledo, president of the Agroindustrial Cooperative and member of the El Placer community.

Rebolledo explains that the first eight days they will be permanently monitored and they will be given three meals a day to subsequently be followed up every 15 days.

The frogs in charge of repopulating this area are descendants of some specimens seized at the El Dorado Airport in Bogotá, which were destined for Europe, but ended up in the Cali zoo with the hope of being the new founders of a community that guarantees their no extinction.

Ernesto Guzman Jr.

Leave a Reply