Amphibian Survival Alliance launches adopt-a-tadpole program to raise funds for rapid rescue

The potentially imminent eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador threatens to wipe out the last surviving population of one of Ecuador’s flagship species, the Quito rocket frog. The Amphibian Survival Alliance has launched an adopt-a-tadpole campaign to raise $14,500—the cost for scientists at the Museum of Zoology, Balsa de los Sapos and Catholic University in Ecuador to conduct a swift rescue.

“Even before the eruption, the rocket frog was among the most endangered frogs on Earth,” said Santiago R. Ron, curator of amphibians at the Museum of Zoology in Ecuador. “Here we have a unique opportunity to take action before disaster strikes. By adopting a tadpole with a small donation, conservation-minded individuals can play a direct role in helping us save this species.”

The Quito rocket frog, which is less than an inch in length, once had a wide distribution in the central and northern Andes of Ecuador, but the population declined precipitously in the ‘80s and ‘90s, probably as the result of disease and climate change. Scientists last recorded evidence of the species in 1989 until rediscovering one remaining population on the banks of the Pita River in 2008. If the Cotopaxi Volcano erupts, it will melt the glaciers that provide water to the Pita River, and will send large flows of volcanic rock and mud into the frog’s habitat. In early October, the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School of Ecuador reported increased volcanic activity and President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency.

Scientists at the Museum of Zoology, Balsa de los Sapos and Catholic University in Ecuador are prepared to collect individual frogs and tadpoles from the Pita River. They will then move them to a lab at Balsa de los Sapos, where they will be kept safe in captivity and bred as scientists wait out the volcanic eruption and develop a plan to return the species to its historic sites. Quito rocket frogs are unique in that unlike most species, the males take care of the offspring.

“If we let these frogs go extinct, it won’t be the result of natural causes,” said Don Church, executive director of the Amphibian Survival Alliance. “The reality is that human-driven changes in the environment forced this species to hang out on the edge of a volcano.”

Individuals can help save the Quito rocket frog before it is too late by adopting a tadpole for a donation of at least $25 through the ASA’s Indiegogo campaign. Each participant will receive a certificate with a tadpole’s name, profile badge for their social media profiles, and regular e-updates as the Quito rocket frog tadpole turns to a full-grown adult. Gift adoptions available.

Photo: The Critically Endangered Quito rocket frog (Hyloxalus jacobuspetersi) © Santiago R. Ron, Museum of Zoology.
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