Saving the Quito Rocket Frog
The Quito Rocket Frog, Hyloxalus jacobuspetersi, is a Critically Endangered species from the Ecuadorian Andes. It had a wide distribution in the central and northern Andes of Ecuador and was once locally abundant at several sites including the city of Quito.
Sadly its populations declined during the late 1980s as part of a wave of extinctions that affected many Andean species of frogs in the late 1980s–early 1990s. The causes for those declines are still contentious but an emerging infectious disease (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) and climate change are believed to be most likely contributing factors.
The Quito Rocket Frog was last recorded in 1989 until in 2008 when a population was discovered on the banks of the Rio Pita. The Pita River population is the only surviving population for this entire species.
The recent activation of Cotopaxi Volcano could wipe out the Río Pita population because Pita River receives its waters from the Cotopaxi glaciers. An eruption can melt these glaciers and send large flows of volcanic rock and mud along Pita River.
The Cotopaxi Volcano continues to release ash, water vapor and sulphur. Photo © Silvia Fernandez
The eruption of Cotopaxi Volcano has created a unique conservation challenge where the survival of an entire species is threatened by a natural disaster. In response to this challenge an emergency response plan has been created. As many individuals as possible of the Quito Rocket Frog – adult frogs and tadpoles alike – will be captured and temporarily relocated to Balsa de los Sapos, an amphibian ex situ conservation facility maintained by Universidad Católica del Ecuador opened since 2005.
Inter-Andean shrub. The Quito Rocket Frog lives along small streams next to Río Pita.
The potential eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano could wipe out the last remaining population of this Critically Endangered Species.
Collect individual frogs and tadpoles from the Pita River to establish a captive assurance colony at Balsa de los Sapos, an amphibian ex situ conservation facility maintained by Universidad Católica del Ecuador while a plan is developed to return the species to its historic range.
Balsa de los Sapos at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador with the support from the Ministerio de Ambiente del Ecuador.
Historic distribution of the Quito Rocket Frog. The red crosses show historic localities, the black dot shows the only surviving population.
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