Once Was Lost, but Now They’re Found: Haiti’s Vanishing Frogs

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Amphibians are among of the most threatened species in the world.

Now, this may not sound critical, as few people think of frogs, salamanders and toads in a positive light, but according to scientists from Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, the loss of amphibians heralds greater disasters for mankind.

CI’s Amphibian Conservation Specialist Dr. Robin Moore likens amphibians to canaries in a coal mine.

He says, “Amphibians are what we call barometer species of our planet’s health … As they disappear, so too do the natural resources people depend upon to survive.”

This is one of the reasons CI launched a global search for “lost frogs” – those that haven’t been seen in over a decade but that are hopefully not extinct. The project took Dr Moore and his partner in the initiative, Dr Blair Hodges from Pennsylvania State University, to the mountains in south-west Haiti.

The aim was to find the La Selle Grass Frog. Unfortunately it remained hidden, but the trip was not wasted as they found six other species that have been lost for 20 years.

The species, which are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, are:

  1. Hispaniolan Ventriloquial Frog, which is able to project its call like a ventriloquist.
  2. Mozart’s Frog, named for the audiospectrum of its call which resembles musical notes.
  3. La Hotte Glanded Frog is distinguished by its sapphire-coloured eyes.
  4. Macaya Breast-spot frog is one of the smallest frogs in the world (roughly the size of a grape) and is only found on the peaks of Formon and Macaya at high elevations on the Massif de la Hotte mountain range.
  5. Hispaniolan Crowned Frog gets its name from a row of small protuberances on the back of its head.
  6. Macaya Burrowing Frog has big black eyes and bright orange flashes on the legs. The expedition marked the first record of the species in the area.

Dr. Moore says that the discoveries prove that Haiti still has a lot to save: “There are biologically rich pockets intact, despite tremendous environmental pressures. Haiti now has the opportunity to design its reconstruction plans around these pockets, and grow them, so they can more effectively act as natural buffers to climate change and natural disasters.”

Conservation International’s Search for Lost Frogs consists of local teams in 19 countries on five continents.

Other important discoveries include a Mexican salamander that has been lost for 50 years, a frog from the Ivory Coast that has been lost for 44 years and a frog from Democratic Republic of Congo that has been lost for 32 years.

Find out more about the global search for lost frogs on the Conservation International website.

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