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Race to halt global amphibian crisis boosted by rediscovery of endangered Colombian frogs

The rediscovery of two frog species feared extinct has made a new Colombian protected area the focal point for efforts to save amphibians from a deadly fungus decimating their populations in Central and South America.

Scientists recently found the two Critically Endangered frogs the Santa Marta harlequin frog (Atelopus laetissimus) and the San Lorenzo harlequin frog (Atelopus nahumae) for the first time in 14 years in the El Dorado Nature Reserve established in March on the northwest slope of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

The reserve is an important home for threatened species, and its protection was a top priority of the Alliance for Zero Extinction a 62-member group of conservation organizations battling global extinctions. In March, alliance members Conservation International (CI) and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) helped Fundacin ProAves of Colombia purchase the 1,600-acre site to protect it as a nature reserve.

Neither of the rediscovered frog species had the deadly fungal disease chytridiomycosis, raising hopes that the species can be saved in the new protected area or through captive breeding. The fungus has been found as close as 40 kilometers (25 miles) away on the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and scientists will study the frogs to learn how they have avoided it.

"It's a race against time to prevent chytridiomycosis from wiping out amphibian populations, but now we have discovered what appear to be healthy populations of these endangered species," said Claude Gascon, CI's senior vice president for regional programs. "Creating the El Dorado Nature Reserve has given Colombia and the world a unique jewel that will prevent the extinction of threatened species of birds and frogs found nowhere else on the planet." El Dorado is the sole breeding ground of the Endangered Santa Marta Parakeet, and home to five threatened amphibians found nowhere else. The site als
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Contact: Paula Alvarado
palvarado@conservation.org
202-297-0857
Conservation International
6-Jun-2006


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