Centrolene heloderma © Tim Krynak
Las Gralarias Foundation Inc. (LGF) is a 501c3 non-profit foundation broadly supporting biological conservation efforts in the Mindo region of Ecuador and Reserva Las Gralarias (RLG) (Province of Pinchincha, Ecuador). LGF recognizes that biological conservation is a multifaceted field and their conservation goals include habitat protection, research, education and responsible eco-tourism. Below, LGF answers questions posed by the Amphibian Survival Alliance’s Candace Hansen-Hendrikx about amphibian conservation and the foundation’s aspirations to protect the critically endangered amphibian species found in the Mindo region of Ecuador.
Amphibians the world over are facing probably the world’s most serious extinction crisis. What are your thoughts on the future prospects for amphibian conservation and preventing further extinctions?
The statistics on amphibian declines are frightening, particularly the rate at which extinctions are estimated to be occurring; upwards of 2700x the background extinction rate (Roelants et al 2007)! But this frightening course will not be changed with acknowledgement that it is occurring alone, we have to take action. This is the central goal of the ASA and LGF alike: taking action to conserve species. LGF takes action to protect amphibians by safeguarding and restoring habitat where dozens of threatened amphibian species including the critically endangered Bumpy Glassfrog, Centrolene heloderma and the newly described Las Gralarias Glassfrog, Nymphargus lasgralarias are found, conducting long-term monitoring of amphibian populations, working with local and international university students to assess and monitor habitat water quality, conducting conservation education programming in the US and Ecuador, and by purchasing additional lands. Habitat acquisition not only increases the acreage of habitat protected, but will protect the headwaters that feed the stream systems at RLG as well as the local communities downslope. LGF knows that the leading cause of amphibian declines is habitat destruction and therefore takes immediate action to protect amphibian species now and in the future by protecting their home.
What do you think are some of the most promising developments in the fight to prevent further amphibian population declines?
There seems to be a growing interest and excitement about amphibians around the world. Media coverage emphasizing the critical need to protect this class of animals is seen on TV, social media, magazine articles, newspapers, radio programs…etc. This increased awareness is leading to more research, funding, and eco-tourism, which can support on the ground conservation efforts. Of course habitat protection remains the number one way we can prevent further declines; however, all additional information gained from research, both observational and experimental, will aid our ability to conserve this group of animals. This is why as an organization, LGF’s primary goal is to protect habitat, but we also support on the ground research leading to a greater depth of knowledge of the biological world. In addition to supporting habitat protection, restoration, and research, it is critical to work with the local community to help build an economy that thrives on protecting the environment. It is very promising that eco-tourism is a booming industry in Ecuador, but often the more remote areas of the Andes are left out of this industry. Through LGF’s educational partnerships with local and international schools and universities and RLG’s partnerships with local guides and reserves, together we responsibly show clients from all over the world the incredible beauty and biodiversity of the region and in doing so provide local people financial benefit of protecting their lands.
Why did Las Gralarias Foundation join the Alliance?
Strength is in numbers right? As a team of like-minded partners the Alliance helps us all spread the word about the plight of amphibians and how we can all take action to protect the future of this amazing class of animals.
What can the average person, as well as the private sector, do in order to tangibly and actively participate in amphibian conservation?
Every person on the planet can become an Amphibian Hero. From altering personal habits to be much more environmentally friendly and being an eco-conscious consumer to supporting and participating in education, research and habitat restoration programs, or by writing to your state political representatives in support of conservation and sustainability planning, we all have something to give… the important part is that we do it. Small actions from all can change the course, but the time to take action is now. You can become an Amphibian Hero for Las Gralarias Foundation right now by visiting our website and liking our FaceBook page and that of the ASA. Please share our information with others! Together we can protect the amphibians of the Mindo Region of Ecuador and across the globe!