Amphibians existed on Earth before the dinosaurs and, throughout their evolution - and until today – they have changed very little. With more than 8000 species, they are found almost everywhere on the planet. Many of these species, moreover, have two stages of life: the first, in the water, as tadpoles and later, their final stage that allows them to live on land and breathe air.
Some characteristics, as their dependence on damp places and the vulnerability to certain diseases, led them to be one of the most threatened groups of vertebrates in the world. In fact, everywhere on Earth, their populations are decreasing, to the point that many of them, in the last 40 years, have become extinct (La Marca et al. 2005; Scheele et al. 2019).
Among the causes reported for these extinctions, it is important to mention climate change, habitat destruction, wildlife trade and introduced species. Additionally, it has been found that diseases such as ranavirus and the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) are also the cause of collapse of some populations (Kriger & Hero, 2006; Phillott et al. 2010; Robert, 2010).
Few countries have taken effective measures to preserve their threatened amphibians. In the case of Colombia, 230 species - of the 812 living there (www.batrachia.com) - are in that condition.
The project “Strategy for Amphibian Conservation in Colombia” is currently working to protect this group. Its fields of action are the national natural parks of Selva de Florencia, Farallones de Cali, Tatamá, Munchique and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Approximately 33% (71) of the country’s threatened species occur in these protected areas.
The project’s main objectives are:
- Verification of the presence of threatened species and the causes that led them to this condition.
- Formulation, for each protected area, of a monitoring program of its amphibians.
- Ecological studies of the taxonomic group in each one of those national natural parks.
- Development of a conservation pilot for these animals.
As part of the mentioned project, the stage of in situ conservation (i.e., the one developed in the ecosystems where the amphibians live) is conducted with the cooperation of National Natural Parks of Colombia (PNN, in Spanish).
On the other hand, the Cali Zoo is responsible for the stage of conservation ex situ (i.e., the one developed outside the ecosystems). This institution strives to design a conservation program to ensure the survival of some species in risk of extinction.
Andinobates bombetes, Oophaga lehmani, Rhaebo atelopoides and Andinobates dalleswansoni are some of the species in behalf of which we work in the above mentioned protected areas.
The "Strategy for Amphibian Conservation in Colombia” is financed by the Zurich Zoo and coordinated by WCS Colombia and also receives support from the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation.