2020 Josh's Frogs Amphibian Conservation Grant Winner - $1000
REVA was our top Grant Winner for the 2020 Amphibian Conservation Grant season. Read below to find out what awesome things the grant money will be used for, and more about this amazing amphibian organization. Zach interviews Dr. Enrique La Marca, the Founder and Executive Director of the Rescue of Endangered Venezuelan Amphibians Conservation Center.
What specifically do you plan on using the grant money for?
The grant money will be used to do several (up to six) expeditions in search of the Merida’s harlequin frog (Atelopus oxyrhynchus). Given the vicinity of populated places to the known historical locations for this frog, it will be a good opportunity to do community work to engage local people and key actors (e.g. park rangers, conservation-oriented organizations, etc.). These conservation activities will in the long run benefit the species. We expect to produce questionnaires associated with this community work to gather info on the species and the knowledge of the people on environmental and conservation-related matters. The money will also be invested, in addition to the necessary fieldwork, in producing a short video and a conservation poster on the species (or even the whole genus in Venezuela; we have to see which is best). In summary, there will be four ways of channelizing the grant money: (1) fieldwork, (2) community work, (3) short video, and (4) poster.
What does winning this grant allow you to do that you might not have otherwise?
Given the current economic situation in the country, not much money can be gathered internally to pursue conservation in situ studies. In this regard, Josh’s Frog grant is a blessing to undertake such work.
When do you expect to see results from this? What are you hoping they look like?
Field activities and community work (the two main components where the grant money will be addressed) are expected to start as soon as COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted. Hopefully, we will have the first results by December of this year. By June 2021 we should have at least one scientific publication reporting the results of the in situ work. In the interim, there should be advances being reported through our social media channels. Some frog specimens to be found through the in-situ work will be carried to the REVA Conservation Center facilities to initiate an ex situ conservation program for the species.
How will this impact amphibian conservation specific to this instance?
The target species has been “lost” for three decades. The first output is to let the World know about our recent discovery (still undisclosed) and the specimens we will find through the field research benefited from your grant. Since all other harlequin frogs from the Venezuelan Andes are still missing, this release will shed hope on finding other species. And it will be the first time in history that a Venezuelan Atelopus is held in captivity for an ex situ conservation program, which will produce information and experiences to initiate similar other studies with related species.
What are the larger implications of your work?
Harlequin frogs are flag species in conservation. It is almost guaranteed that results from the in-situ work with such an iconic frog as Atelopus oxyrhynchus will draw attention to the problems facing this particular species as well as other Andean amphibians; it will channelize attention to the work at REVA (benefiting our other programs), and even direct attention to the efforts of Josh´s Frog to support conservation studies (which, by the way, we appreciate it and congratulate your organization for taking this initiative).
What message or information would you like to share with the reptile and amphibian pet community?
Amphibians are an important part of the ecosystems and a group that is facing ongoing extinctions worldwide. It is germane that we pay attention to these indicators of the health of the ecosystems, which in turn is a measure of our well being itself.
How would someone make a donation to your organization?
At the moment, money can only be received through bank transfer. Donation of equipment and materials is also welcome. People can contact us through our email ([email protected]) or social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) for information.
Where could someone learn more about your project?
Through our website: https://revafrog.home.blog/. From the web page, people can also have access to our different social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube).
Dr. Enrique La Marca is a biologist who graduated in University of Colorado under the advice of Dr. Hobart M. Smith. Magister of Science in Systematics and Biogeography from the University of Nebraska, under the advice of Dr. John D. Lynch. Graduated at Universidad de Los Andes, Doctorate (PhD) in Tropical Ecology under the advice of Dr. John D. Lync and Guillermo Sarmiento.
Affiliation: Professor Emeritus, Universidad de Los Andes at Mérida, Venezuela. Currently he is the Founder and Executive Director of the Rescue of Endangered Venezuelan Amphibians (REVA) Conservation Center, founded in May 2018.
Scientific achievements: More of 260 scientific papers, including 6 books. He has described more than 40 species of amphibians and reptiles new to science. His conservation achievements are manifold. He has more than 35 years devoted to the study of the herpetofauna of Venezuela, mainly amphibians, where he was the main author of the Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA) for Venezuela. He is currently a Member of the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG of the IUCN).
REVA is an amphibian conservation center located in the Venezuelan Andes, in the city of Merida. It is the only Venezuelan organization exclusively devoted to the conservation of amphibians in this country. REVA currently holds conservation programs for several species of aromobatid frogs (genera Aromobates and Mannophryne), mainly from cloud forests, two species of rubber frogs (genus Pristimantis) from paramo environments, and one species of cloud forest harlequin frog (Atelopus oxyrhynchus).
Zach had the chance to interview Enrique 8 months after disbursing the grant. Here's what he had to say:
Atelopus oxyrhynchus Report to Josh’s Frog, by Enrique La Marca, Founder and Executive director of REVA,
We made six field trips (two of one day each to known historical locations, and four of two days to new locations within known range) in search of the Merida’s harlequin frog (Atelopus oxyrhynchus). The field-work served to identify two previously unknown locations in the upper range of distribution (above 3000 m. elevation, close to the border between cloud forest and paramo), as well as three insofar unreported threats (namely, introduced trout, fires and flash floods). Additionally, with the ecological data gathered in situ, we are confident to delimit the habitat for the species as being only the montane cloud forest (and from that, we deduct that the species is not present in the lower humid Premontane forests, nor in the high altitude paramo environments; some “paramo” localities given in the literature, like “Paramo La Culata” are indeed patches of open vegetation where the original forest cover has been highly modified mainly through deforestation.
We did community work to engage local people in the conservation of the species, and gathered from them historical data on the presence of the species in certain places. We also contacted key people such as park rangers in Sierra de La Culata National Park and conservation-oriented organizations, for them to know the species and the threats it is facing. People from two conservation organizations were trained to search for Atelopus and gather pertinent data. One of the teams found tadpoles of a still undescribed Atelopus species from Trujillo state whose adults have not being seeing for decades and a note of the discovery has been already sent for publication in the Amphibian Survival Alliance´s Frogress Report Newsletter.
As originally contemplated in the grant proposal, we produced a poster on the whole genus Atelopus in Venezuela, centered on conservation of this critically endangered group of frogs. We are now in the making of a short video on the species, which we hope to release soon.
As an unexpected result of the field work, we discovered two new populations of the Critically Endangered Aromobates duranti, a frog only known from a single place: its type locality. These are wonderful news for this amphibian. A report on this species and the discoveries is being sent to the Amphibian Ark Newsletter.
The in situ research served to gather data to actualize the IUCN Red List conservation assessment for the species (Atelopus oxyrhynchus IUCN RedList). Additionally, we produced an Action Plan for the Mérida´s harlequin frog, which will serve as guidelines for establishing an ex situ conservation program once wild populations of this endangered frog are found (document to be found at the following link: Species-Action-Plan-Atelopus-oxyrhynchus).
One of our goals in the near future is to incorporate more endangered species into the captive breeding facilities to strengthen and recover wild populations. Although we did not find any extant population, the Atelopus oxyrhynchus experience that was financed by Josh’s Frogs helped us to understand that conservation programs at the REVA Conservation Center need to be addressed at least at three levels: ex situ (captive husbandry), in situ (including habitat restoration) and community empowerment (which includes aspects such as citizen science, environmental and conservation education).
When some species are being reproduced in captivity, their descendants can fulfill the demand that is imposed on wild caught animals for the pet trade. In this sense, these animals produced in captivity will diminish (or hopefully eradicate) the pressure put by demand on wild specimens, through lower prices and better health conditions for the captive animals. In this sense, commercialization may help with the conservation of a given species.
Quests can be addressed to: [email protected]. Information on REVA and our activities are on the REVA website.
The poster with photographs and conservation data on all the species of Atelopus known from Venezuela can be downloaded for free at the following link: Poster Atelopus Venezuela. Please share it with friends and interested people and spread the word on the need for conservation of these unique species as well as the rest of the biodiversity on this planet.
This is part of our Josh's Frogs Conservation Initiatives, where we work to pair the success of species in captivity with their success in the wild. To read more about our conservation efforts, click here.