Atelopus species monitoring and rescue project Help

This new international project and strategy was necessary after our detection of the Chytrid fungus in populations of Atelopus pulcher and the vast range extinctions of A. peruensis and A. “pachydermus” witnessed by us in 2000 at Cajamarca. But despite of the declines and extinctions in other countries, Peru still holds a big amount of new species to be discovered.

The rescue strategy includes both methods: intensive rescue management and external on site management. Currently we are monitoring original habitats of Atelopus pulcher (in severe decline due to Chytrid impact), Atelopus seminiferus (suspected Chytrid presence), Atelopus sp. nov.,  A. “spumarius” and A. reticulatus (possibly in severe decline).

As a subproject of the Atelopus rescue strategy we plan the general Chytrid fungus impact survey of Northern and Central Peru with a thesis project from National University Pedro Ruiz Gallo, Chiclayo- Veterinarian branch, our investigator will be Pablo Venegas. Project start is planned for the end of 2004.

The goal of the Atelopus project is to monitor the long term environmental changes in the original habitats, which are considered to trigger the Chytrid fungus outbreak. Rainer Schulte from INIBICO has however another theory, that the Chytrid fungus in South America is distributed in feathers of migrating water birds, due to the spotty pattern of infection outbreaks with long distances of several hundred to thousand km between them. At the moment, fast declines of Atelopus species are also reported from Manu National Park in the south of Peru.

There are also some other reasons for the declines observed, like forest destruction, water pollution, introduction of rainbow trout (must be confirmed by direct tadpole- trout feeding tests), and creeping bamboo (Chusquea) impact. The presence of big Bufo marinus in Atelopus habitats with declines must be tested also: this big toad may predate on adult Atelopus or at least their tiny offspring!

At the moment we are looking for funding of the habitat survey trips, the data logger equipment purchase to be installed in all selected habitats and other gear necessary. Investigations are done at all levels: water quality, water insect community, flash floods, air and water temperature, rel. humidity, food resources, flow conditions, tadpole food, juvenile frog food, adults food, reproduction timing and season, Chytrid impact, sex related home ranges, semaphoring behavior and calls and enemy testing.

Several of the original habitats we try to protect in a long term way (one site of A. pulcher is protected by now in our 20 year Faunal Management Concession of ASPRAVEP. In this site we are starting in 2004 a Chytrid field treatment of the surviving Atelopus pulcher frogs to see if we can keep the selected test population stable and reproducing even under Chytrid presence. If the outcomes are positive, this model might be used to rescue also other populations of Atelopus in the field. Interested investigators and sponsors (Zoos???) may contact us via our email address

Current 2004 observations are that in our A. pulcher site in the Frog Valley (ASPRAVEP Concession) a remnant population of only 18 marked frogs survive still on a stretch of about 300 m of one quebrada, among them only two registered females. Investigators of the University of Greenville (Jason Brown and Evan Twomey) which worked this year on a longer Dendrobates field study in the Frog Valley also surveyed the Atelopus and registered them. A paper is coming out soon about their observations and field data. The same site has data loggers installed (Donation from Dr. Stefan Lötters, University of Mainz, Germany) and the first download of climatic data is processed by Dipl. Biol. Dietmar Bernauer, Germany, which made also the detailed water analysis and microfauna survey of this quebrada. We did not yet observed egg strings and tadpoles this year (August 2004), but possibly the frogs will spawn at low water situation in summer now. Juvenile Atelopus from last year reproduction events had been detected in the Frog Valley site in February 2004, also at the site of Atelopus seminiferus in Aguaruna tribes territory in February and the Greenville Investigators recently surveyed in August 2004 our Atelopus spumarius plot at the Brazilian side of the Amazon in Peru and found recently metamorphosed juveniles and a regular number of active and calling frogs after the problems observed there in February 2004 during an unusual 23 day long drought. In the last two habitats we must install data loggers in 2004 to detect changes in rainfall pattern and ambient/water temperatures. The idea is to find out which trigger factors induce the natural spawning process of those frogs in the field. 

A financing request will be submitted to important organizations (C.I.), but help from other sponsors is also welcome. At the moment, only Columbia and Peru count with a regular number of surviving Atelopus populations having the status “with reproduction” or “declining”. If we want to save those frogs, then those two countries are good candidates for test projects. Atelopus populations in the highlands of Ecuador are gone- only some few are surviving at Lowland forest level around the foothills of the Condor and Cutucú. French Guyana and Suriname have also some few populations surviving in lowland areas. In western Brazil we suspect the presence of some new species in the Cordillera do Moa Arch.

Interested scientists and students may be guided to our field sites with surviving Atelopus, taking care not to introduce the Chytrid fungus (see DAPTF procedures to avoid Chytrid transmission into new habitats).

Papers on Atelopus are coming out soon, where R.S. from INIBICO provided data (Oryx, Biotropica). We also could receive students for thesis projects on those frogs- as the general knowledge about Peruvian Atelopus populations in the field is rarest.

TABLE NO. 1:  Amphibian Database, INIBICO PERU - Bufonidae: Atelopus                 BASIC ECOCODE -  HERPETOFAUNA  PERU            
1 Atelopus pulcher green with black  markings, venter red in females San Martín, Cord. Oriental Cordillera Oriental ECD ranita barriga roja medium 450-1500 DECL CO diurnal QBR yes yes yes currently decreasing populations in C.O. Due to chytrid impact, not to be confounded with SPUMARIUS s.s.! R. Schulte, San Martin, samples at KU and UNMSM-Lima
2 Atelopus (pulcher) andinus similar pulcher, pattern more fine, bigger San Martín- Ucayali- Loreto Cordillera Azul, Alto Viabo river valley   medium 1000 > ? diurnal yes status unknown Lily Rodriguez, UNMSM
3 Atelopus "spumarius" black with light blue foam pattern, BIG! Loreto Brazilian side of Amazon in Peru   medium 120 X diurnal  
4 Atelopus spumarius s.s.,several variants black with bluish green markings, SMALL Amazonian Lowlands Napo Refuge to Brazilian Frontier Fauna influece range ECD small 180-200 X diurnal yes Still normal populations. Very patchy distribution in humid pockets. This is the REAL spumarius!!!  R. Schulte, Tahuayo Drainage; Bill Lamar, Amazonian Lowlands
5 Atelopus spec. 1 black with big yellow spots on dorsum San Martin  Bosque Prot. Alto Mayo- North of Carret. Marginal   medium 1500 > diurnal yes  
6 Atelopus spec. 2, several variants black w. big yellow spots in groin San Martin- Amazonas Bosque Prot. Alto Mayo- South of Carret.Marginal   medium diurnal yes  
7 Atelopus seminiferus black with minute yellow spots,venter pink w. red San Martin Buffer Zone Bosque Prot. Alto Mayo, north C.M.   medium diurnal yes Density 2 frogs/Ha (outside Breeding Season), populations possibly endangered. 2 frogs died w. Chytrid symp Rediscovered in 2001 by R. Schulte, 2 samples at CRS.
8 Atelopus spec. 3 uniform green dorsum,venter yellow Amazonas Molinopampa, Amazonas   medium diurnal QBR yes rarest, only one sample known (KU) Collector: John Wiens, KU , recent rediscovering by R.S. failed.
9 Atelopus reticulatus, Var. 1(=dimorphus) uniform dull green, skin granular Leoncio Prado West of Divisoria, Cord. Azul.   tiny, gracile diurnal yes wrongly declared as Neotypes of A. spumarius by Lescure R. Schulte, Cord. Azul Expedition, samples at UNMSM, Lima and CRS Tarapoto 
10 Atelopus reticulatus, several variants green with black bubble mesh,smooth Ucayali East of Divisoria, Cord. Azul   tiny, gracile diurnal yes wrongly declared as Neotypes of A. spumarius by Lescure R. Schulte, Cord. Azul Expedition, samples at UNMSM, Lima and CRS Tarapoto 
11 Atelopus rugulosus NOBLE 1921(tricolor group) brown with yellow spots, yellow dorsolateral stripe Juliaca, Dep. Puno Only at type locality   diurnal  
12 Atelopus spec. 6 yellow with black spots, stout and big La Libertad Marañón valley mountains, east of Marañon   medium diurnal yes rarest, samples possibly at UNMSM, Lima R. Schulte, pers. com. from transect travellers from Juanjui to Dep. La Libertad
13 Atelopus spec. 7(spumarius complex?)   Lowlands in front of Manu Around Camiséa Gas well camp   medium diurnal yes  
14 Atelopus spec. 8 (pulcher complex) green w. black, similar pulcher Leoncio Prado Cordillera Azul or East Andes, Tingo María.   medium diurnal yes  
15 Atelopus peruensis green- black, w. yellow Amazonas-Cajamarca Cajamarca- Celendín   medium 3500-4500 diurnal PARAMO yes in extinction, overcollected and Chytrid impact (?) R. Schulte, 2000. From 6- 8000 exported frogs, none survived!
16 Atelopus spec. 4 (peruensis group) multicolor with spinose skin San Martín, Amazonas Paramo of Leymebamba   diurnal  
17 Atelopus pachydermus 1 dull brown dorsum, robust, stout body Cajamarca- Celendin syntopic formerly with A. peruensis   medium, stout diurnal PARAMO  
18 Atelopus pachydermus 2 dull brown dorsum, stout body Jaen/San Ignacio to Ecuador Cordillera Oriental, Jaen ECD medium 2500> diurnal PARAMO  
19 Atelopus spec. 9 green w. yellow Cordillera del Condor- South Spur Dep. Amazonas, summit species ECD medium, long legs 2000 > X DECL-EXT? diurnal yes status unknown, rarest in 1990 (we could not find them) R. Schulte, local habitants report from summit quebrada, Vista Alegre, Condor Expedition
20 Atelopus spec. 10 black with yellow, very big Cordillera Colán Dep. Amazonas, altitude species   ? ? X diurnal yes status unknown Duellman & Wild, 1993, p. 49. Material at KU?
21 Atelopus spec. 11 unknown yet Amazonas Cord. Luya, trail from Tingo de Utcubamba to summits   diurnal yes status unknown, comments from local habitants R. Schulte, 1981. Tingo is the LOWER settlement- not the one of the upper Utcubamba!
22 Atelopus tricolor black w. yellow spots, red feet East Andean Slopes,South Peru: Cuzco, Puno BOL diurnal yes  
23 Atelopus erythropus color  red hand and feet Cordillera Carabaya, Puno   diurnal yes  
24 Atelopus spec. 12 black with orange linings or reticulation Rio Tavara, Madre de Dios hills at Rio Tavara    
25 Atelopus boulengeri   Frontier range, Peru- Ecuador foothills of Cordillera del Cóndor, North Spur ECD diurnal yes