To say Quito rocket frogs are having a run of bad luck would be an understatement. After 25 years of being critically endangered, they are now threatened to be fully wiped out by a volcanic eruption in Ecuador.
Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s highest active volcano, erupted in August, spraying ash and smoke over a distance of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) and covering local towns in a plume of soot. The volcano, which was dormant for over 70 years until this summer, is just 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Ecuadorian capital, Quito. It's still spitting up taunts of lava and volcanologists fear another eruption could be months, or even weeks, away.
However, while humans might fear this terrifying power of nature, it’s the Quito rocket frog (Colostethus jacobuspetersi) that really needs to worry. The species was once abundant in the Andes along the Río Pita river but the animals have succumbed to waves of extinction since the 1980s. The exact reasons for this decline are argued, however the main consensus is that an emerging fungal disease and climate change have hit the species with a double blow.
The threat to the rocket frogs is not just being swamped by lava or caked in volcanic ash like an amphibian Pompeii. The activity could melt the volcano's snow which could trigger mud flows and floods which would wipe out even more of the rocket frog’s already dwindling habitat.
Thankfully, there’s a man with a plan. Santiago Ron, a herpetologist who also takes awesome photographs, is coming to rescue with a team from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE) in Qutio. Since August, Ron and his team have been stalking the frogs' known territories and collecting them. So far they have managed to find one young frog and 25 tadpoles, with the target of caching 50 adults and 100 tadpoles.
Speaking to National Geographic, Ron said, “Dry-season conditions mean the frogs are inactive, making them extremely hard to find right now.” However, he added that once the rainy season comes over the next few weeks “the frogs’ vocalizations will give away their hiding places.”
He hopes to house the frogs in the Balsa de los Sapos amphibian conservation facility and eventually wants to return them to their natural habitat once the land recovers.
[H/T: National Geographic]
Image credit: Ángel M. Felicísimo/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)