A new discovery in the Montagua Valley of Guatemala has provided a rare conservation opportunity. A salamander belonging to the genus Oedipina was found living in an area of unprotected dry forest, an ecotype that was presumed to be devoid of salamanders for decades. This species, once described, will certainly qualify for Critically Endangered status, because the dry forest in which is it occurs is the most threatened habitat in Central America. More than 90 percent of the forest has been lost already, and continued pressures threaten the remaining extent. Furthermore, the new Oedipina species is likely restricted to the remaining patch of forest.
Without intervention, the forest on which the salamander relies for its survival will almost certainly be lost in the coming years, and with it the species. A 58 hectare property is currently for sale, providing an opportunity to create a private protected area and safeguard the core habitat for the salamander. A local NGO can provide long-term support for managing the site, but it does not have the resources to purchase the land. A mining company has now bid on the property, highlighting the need to act quickly to secure the land. Support from the Amphibian Conservation Action Fund will allow the NGO to purchase the land and protect it in perpetuity.
Connectivity with other protected areas and opportunities of conservation
The land neighbors a patch of habitat that was previously purchased by Zootropic with the help of International Reptile Conservation Foundation and Zoo Atlanta. This land is currently being designated as a zone of forest protection and added to the Protected Areas Network as a private natural reserve. It is located just one mile from the local regional park known as “Niño Dormido” (the local name for the Beaded Lizard). Furthermore, this area is an important site for ecotourism and science, and it will provide employment for the people in the El Arenal and El Rosario villages.
The site will be an important part of the Environmental Education Program in the area since it is ideal for viewing flagship species and it will boast the first center for the reproduction of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard, which is in the process of receiving a grant from the Fondo para la Conservación de Bosques Tropicales (FCA) program.
The site is also a critical refuge for many threatened species, including two lizard species, The Critically Endangered Ctenosaura palearis and the Vulnerable Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti, both only found in this site, and one of the last places in Guatemala where the Russet-crowned Motmom (Momotus mexicanus) can be seen.