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STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE ECUADORIAN AMPHIBIANS IN EXTINCTION RISK ARCA DE LOS SAPOS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

2011 Quito, Ecuador

Centro Jambatu de Investigaci贸n y Conservaci贸n de Anfibios


STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE ECUADORIAN AMPHIBIANS IN EXTINCTION RISK 1

What are the amphibians? Amphibians are vertebrates that include toads, frogs, caecilians and salamanders. This animal group has inhabited the planet for 350 million years. During this time, they have faced a series of climatic, geologic, and biological changes.

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This strategic plan is based on the Balsa de los Sapos Initiative (Coloma et al. 2006)


INTRODUCTION The Centro Jambatu de Investigación y Conservación de Anfibios started in January 2011, and is part of Fundación Otonga.

Through its activities, oriented to research, conservation, and education the Jambatu Center has a mission: To conduct research and implement the Strategic Plan for the conservation of Ecuadorian endangered amphibians.

Our objectives are to generate new knowledge and concepts about amphibians, and in this way develop technologies and implement a modern "Noah's Ark" with the participation of scientists, conservationists, educators, communicators, frogs and community, designed to mitigate and prevent the decline and extinction of amphibians. BACKGROUND Fundación Otonga has been studying the Ecuadorian fauna for morethan a decade, and also works in environmental protection and education activities. Fundación Otonga is widely recognized at national and international level because of its highly qualified personnel and researchers and the activities it develops. The researchers currently working at Fundación Otonga are pioneers and leaders in scientific research of the Ecuadorian biodiversity, especially in herpetology, enthomology and vertebrates. They have published numerous scientific journals and represent a model to follow by the new generations of scientists in Latin America. Among the areas with higher technical and scientific development is herpetology, with special interest in amphibians. Giovanni Onore and Luis Coloma have been promoters of the amphibian amphibian collections in Ecuador, which


are one of the largest and more important in the world. Some remarkable collections either done or leaded by them are the ones deposited at Museum of Zoology of Pontificia Universidad Cat贸lica del Ecuador Museum of Zoology of Escuela Polit茅cnica Nacional, Geneve Museum Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales, among others, which sum around 60.000 thousand amphibian specimens. Important actions involving the collections include the discovery and description of new species of amphibians, and research in evolution, ecology, and ethology. Coloma and his team of students and collaborators have been pioneers in managing alive collections. Through studies performed under lab conditions it has been possible to gather information in biology, ethology and reproduction for several species, which has facilitated the development of management techniques.

Since 1998, studies have been carried out to determine the nature, magnitude, and causes of the population declines and extinction of amphibians at the Ecuadorian Andes. This information has been useful to elaborate the Ecuadorian Amphibians Red List and to update the Global Amphibian Assessment. Outreach activities include the dissemination of up-to-date information about the diversity and conservation of amphibians through a free access electronic encyclopedia (AnfibiosWebEcuador) on which Centro Jambatu is working on. Between March and May 2005, considering the urgency to educate about amphibian declines and the importance to implement activities supporting amphibian conservation and their habitats, Coloma led one of the most important exhibitions of alive amphibians in the world, "SAPARI: Avent煤rate en un mundo de sapos" (SAPARI: take an adventure in a world of frogs). The exhibit was opened at Centro Cultural of Pontificia Universidad Cat贸lica del Ecuador in Quito


between February and May, 2005. Sapari was motivated by the urgency to educate and to increase the public awareness on the global crisis of the amphibians and the importance of executing activities that support their conservation. This event lasted 90 days and was attended by 105 000 visitors. Sapari received massive media attention and the sponsorship of national and international institutions, among them: the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Atlanta Zoo, Otonga Foundation, Ecuavisa, European Union, Associazione per la Solidarieta麓e Cooperazione Internacionale (UCODEP), Panavial, and Conservation International. The exhibit required the contribution of a great number of biologists and eco-tourist guides that worked voluntarily. The most important product of Sapari was the raising of public awareness about the problem and of support for amphibian conservation. In this regard, approximately 11 000 signatures were collected to motivate the mayor of the city of Quito to make efforts for marsupial frogs (Gastrotheca riobambae) to live in suitable habitats in urban parks and surrounding Quito.

In response to the catastrophic amphibian declines and extinctions, Fundaci贸n Otonga is aiming to implement an ambitious Strategic Plan for the Conservation of the Ecuadorian Amphibians in Risk of Extinction. This strategic plan agree what is formulated in the Action Plan for the Conservation of Amphibians (led by Amphibian Ark); which was elaborated by more than 150 scientists and conservationists of the world. They have made an urgent call to the most amphibian diverse countries to implement ex situ management programs, as a fast response to the massive and catastrophic amphibian extinction in the world. In addition, the objectives, results and activities of this strategic plan go hand in hand with the mission, interests and capacity of Fundaci贸n Otonga, expecting to contribute in rescuing this group of their extinction.


Amphibians: living treasures • Links on the trophic chain: They control plagues and diseases. They constitute a food source for other animals (fish, reptiles, birds and mammals).

• Bio-indicator species: Because of their sensitive skin, they are propense to be affected by the presence of chemicals, increases of the UV light and temperature. Their declines warn us of something going wrong with the environment and that humans could also be affected in their health or economy.

• Chemical Factories: Analgesic and antibiotics have been derived from these animals. The use of the amphibians for the improvement of human health, as well as for the generation of economic resources for the Ecuador has an incalculable potential. With its extinction the possibility of discovering the cure for several diseases is lost.

• They are part of the culture: Amphibians are linked to ancestral traditions of different population groups in Ecuador. These animals are source of inspiration for religion, folklore and art. • Charismatic animals: The amphibian shapes, colors and songs attract the attention of the public. Its image can be used as emblem to promote ecosystem conservation, tourism and the environmental marketing of companies.


CONTEXT The problem Tropical amphibians are among least known animals and they also are in great danger of disappear. During the last two decades, the distribution ranges of many amphibian species have been reduced and catastrophic population declines and extinctions have occurred worldwide, even in protected and pristine areas. Nowadays, amphibians are one of the most endangered animal groups of the planet.

Worldwide, a one third of the amphibians is facing risk of extinction (1900 species).

Around 170 species are possibly extinct.

¿Why focus conservation efforts on the amphibians of Ecuador?

Ecuadorian amphibians in numbers Biological richness

Ecuador is one of the "megadiverse" countries of the World. Although representing a small area, these countries hold 70% of the animals and plant species of the planet. This extraordinary natural wealth is well represented by the diversity of amphibians in Ecuador, 499 described species. This species richness makes Ecuador the third most diverse


country in the world. Ecuador also has a high endemism because 42% of its amphibian species do not occur in other countries.

Amphibian diversity at risk

The Ecuadorian amphibian fauna is considered one the most threatened of the planet. Recent estimates of the conservation status of amphibian in Ecuador indicate that at least 153 species are under extinction risk and 14 of them are presumably extinct. Unfortunately, these data could be underestimates because the available information is insufficient to establish the conservation status of 152 amphibian species. It is expected that the number of species in extinction risk will increase as the time passes and more information is gathered.

The available scientific evidence indicates the Andean amphibians experience the highest risk of extinction. Of the threatened amphibian species, 84% inhabit the Andes. Amphibians: valuable elements of our biodiversity Amphibians are irreplaceable elements of the biodiversity because of their environmental, economic, and cultural value.

Threats to the amphibians Three factors have been identified as the main causes of the amphibian dramatic losses:


Global warming: The average increase in temperature worldwide has been of 0.7 째C during the last century. In the Ecuadorian Andes, the temperature increase has been four times greater than the world average. Warming and dry climate has devastating effects for amphibians, because they are susceptible to dehydration through their skin. In addition, amphibians depend on water supplies for their development. In extreme dry conditions, the scarcity of water limits this group survival. Infectious diseases: Pathogens (fungi and virus) are linked to the amphibian declines. Ecuador was the first South American country to confirm the presence of the chytrid fungus that produces the lethal disease chytridiomycosis. In Ecuador, many Andean species have been infected by this pathogen.

Habitat loss and fragmentation: Deforestation and pollution, among other factors, affect the integrity of ecosystems, which are being degraded and quickly fragmented. As a consequence, amphibians become homeless.


In search of solutions.... Arca de los Sapos

INTERVENTION OF THE PROPOSAL Arca de los Sapos Initiative: Actions before the extinction Saving these animals from extinction depends on immediate actions. It is necessary to articulate and execute, in a coordinated manner, activities to protect and recover the affected populations of amphibians. Unfortunately, in Ecuador, the adoption of such policies at this time is stopped by: (a) poor knowledge of basic amphibian biology;


(b) traditional conservation strategies are not enough to face the amphibian population crisis; (c) local capacity is still limited to develop effective conservation actions in a sustainable way; and (d) scarce support and participation of the various social actors that have stakes in the conservation of amphibians.

Based on these antecedents, and to solve the described problem, Centro Jambatu from Fundación Otonga has incorporated concepts, programs and components of the world and national strategies and will execute the initiative: “Plan Estratégico para la Conservación de los Anfibios Ecuatorianos en Riesgo de Extinción” (“Strategic plan in Ecuador for the conservation of the amphibians at risk of extinction”). AIMS OF THE PROJECT

To contribute to the conservation of the biodiversity of global significance2, by supporting through the execution of specific actions, the national and international efforts to prevent the extinction of the amphibians, which are essential components of the diversity.

To promote and facilitate the implementation of national and international policies, strategies, plans, and agendas formulated to manage biodiversity3.

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Ecuadorian native amphibians are part of the biodiversity held in seven ecoregions of world importance (1) Northern Andean Montane Forests, (2) Northern Andean Paramo, (3) Napo Moist Forest, (4) Upper Amazon Rivers and Streams, (5) Chocó-Darién Moist Forest, (6) Tumbesian Region Dry Forest and (7) Panama Bight Mangroves. 3

The main political and planning instruments that constitutes the reference frame for the Strategic Plan for the Conservation of the Amphibians in Risk of Extinction are: Agreement of Biological Diversity, Declaration of River, Agreement of Cartagena, Regional Strategy of Biodiversity for the Countries of the Tropical Andes, Basic policies for the sustainable use and the conservation of the biodiversity of Ecuador, National Strategy of the Biodiversity, Strategy for the Protection and Use Sustainable of the Wild Life.


OBJECTIVE OF THE PROJECT • To catalyze and optimize the protection and recovery of the Ecuadorian amphibians in risk of extinction through the implementation of a Strategic Plan of Conservation. The Strategic Plan includes six integral programs that are complementary to each other:

Operational Program I. Monitoring and Research of amphibians in risk of extinction Purpose: To increase the scientific knowledge and the technological innovations, to guide the decision-making related to the management and conservation of the amphibians of Ecuador.

The program will be developed according to research priorities that will be defined and synthesized in a Master Plan for Amphibian Research (MPAR). The program will include six high-priority thematic areas: (1) systematics, (2) population ecology (demography, distribution, abundance and population monitoring), (3) population genetics, (4) natural history (reproductive biology, ethology, feeding and habitat), (5) epidemiology, and (6) amphibian toxicology.


The program will focus on amphibian species in risk of extinction and on poorly known species (data deficient). Research efforts will concentrate in the Northern Andean Montane Forests and the Northern Andean Paramo. However, considering that endangered and data deficient species are distributed in all five ecoregions in Ecuador, focal studies will be performed en each area. The studies will be made under natural conditions (in situ) and/or under controlled conditions (ex situ), depending on the necessities established in the MPAR.

Operational Program II. Strengthnening of local capacities

Purpose: To develop and strengthen the Ecuadorian local capacities in physical, technical, scientific, operatives, and financial aspects to assume with efficiency the implementation of the Conservation Plan for Amphibians in Extinction Risk.

The program includes: (1) the establishment of a Center for Research, Management and Conservation of Amphibians (Centro Jambatu), which will be equipped with highly qualified personnel and suitable infrastructure, equipment and technology; (2) professional training; (3) the establishment of financial support to stimulate research of threatened amphibian species; (4) the strengthening of inter-institutional relationships with


national and international organizations; (5) the development of financing mechanisms offering, in the long term, sustainability to this initiative. Operational Program III. Ex situ management Purpose: To maintain, protect, and recover the native amphibian species in risk of extinction, as well as their genetic diversity, through the establishment of a long-term ex- situ management program. The captive breeding program (ex situ management) includes:

(1) Rescue of threatened and data deficient amphibian species by keeping captive breeding colonies. Center Jambatu expects to maintain in captivity representative colonies of all threatened species.

(2) The establishment of a specimen interchange program with other conservation and research centers, to support the breeding and captive reproduction of native amphibians and warrant the genetic diversity of the captive colonies.

(3) The strengthening of the native amphibian genome bank, through the acquisition of adequate technological equipment. Operational program IV. In situ management Purpose: to keep, protect and recover native amphibian species at risk of extinction, including its genetic diversity, through protection of habitats, reintroduction of declining populations, reintroduction and


translocation of species and sustainable management. The program of in situ management involves: (1) Conservation of endangered and data deficient amphibians, within their habitats. We expect to buy and support land acquisition to keep genetically viable populations of amphibian communities, including endangered species. (2) The establishment of a group of reserves and protected areas belonging to Fundaci贸n Otonga and other organizations, emphasizing in amphibians. (3) The management of declining amphibian populations for its recovery.

(4) To promote in situ sustainable management of amphibian populations for research, education, entertainment, including social and environmental components.

(5) To execute reintroduction projects or amphibian translocation in areas where they have disappeared. We will follow protocols suggested by UICN.

Operational program V. Bioinformatics Purpose: To provide free access and interactivity to updated, complete, high quality scientific and educative information about the amphibians of Ecuador.


A database and communication system will be developed to manage the generated information. Research results will be available to the public through the web site AnfibiosWebEcuador, for which protocols for management and quality control will be performed. The virtual Encyclopedia AnfibiosWebEcuador intends a partnership between the scientific community and the general public, with the goal of making freely available to anyone knowledge about all the Ecuadorian amphibians. Expert curators ensure quality of the information by authenticating materials submitted by diverse projects and individual contributors.

Operational Program VI. Public education and awareness raising Purpose: To promote and foment in different social groups the acquisition and building of concepts, values, attitudes and aptitudes applied to the conservation of native amphibian species of and their natural habitats. The MPAR includes the achievement of a wide range of research involving different subjects, species, and ecoregions. For that reason, the agile handling and opportune diffusion of the information generated to the scientific community will be crucial to contribute to the establishment of new line of research and suitable strategies for the conservation of the amphibians.

With this aim, the initiative seeks to promote the publication of the results of its investigation in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


The program includes: (1) implementation of a strategy of education and environmental communication at a national level and (2) stablishment of temporal and permanent amphibian public exhibits. The animals for exhibit swill be provided by the ex situ management program.


Work Plan Amphibian conservation is a long term goal. The execution of conservation initiatives started in 2006 and were executed in Ecuador by PUCE in Quito and Zoológico Amaru in Cuenca. In 2011 Fundación Otonga will be leading this initiative. Financial Support For the implementation of the Project Fundación Otonga have the support of: • Saint Louis Zoo. • The Project is currently managed with international cooperation agencies. • As a national counterpart, a network of sponsor partners is being established in the private and civil sector.

BENEFICIARIES Unique biodiversity will be conserved: Conservation of a significant number of species will be achieved with the execution of this proposal by: a) increasing the knowledge and optimizing the protection and recovery of the populations on more than 100 amphibian species of Ecuador that are in extinction risk or are poorly known; b) implementing a set of suitable measures directed to preserve genetic resources of these species.


Ecuador: The country will benefit when fulfilling the national and international commitments that it has acquired to conserve the biodiversity. Also, the country will improve its environmental management capacity with a consolidated plan directed to provide solutions to protect its biodiversity.

Investigators and students: A great number of people will be assisted with training programs and young researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, independent researchers or associate will have the opportunity to participate in projects related to the research, handling and conservation of the amphibians. The Ecuadorian population: will benefit through the education and environmental communication strategies. Specifically the population of the Distrito Metropolitano de


Quito and its surroundings, as well as the foreign and national tourists, will have a greater access to education and environmental communication activities through public exhibits. Additionally, the environmental communication campaigns will reach diverse target groups at the national level.

Local communities: At least five communities (pilot project sites) located close to the Fundaci贸n Otonga reserves will be supported with education and communication activities (Otonga, Otongachi, Otokiki, and Otoyacu reserves). It is expected that these activities will improve natural resource management and conservation of biodiversity. Environmental Decision Makers: The entities in charge of the administration and management of the biodiversity of Ecuador, as well as, the national and international agencies devoted to its conservation, will benefit of the conceptual, methodological and operative contributions that will derive from this initiative. These will serve as a tool to scientifically analyze the status of the amphibian populations and the impact of the factors that are responsible of the amphibian declines. In this way, policy decisions will be more informed and will facilitate the achievement of ex situ and in situ objectives.

Scientific community: The diffusion of scientific information will be valuable for the Ecuadorian and global scientific community. The scarce knowledge about amphibians often limits the possibilities to formulate coherent field hypothesis conducting to specific objectives. Results generated will create the baseline for knowledge required to generate new projects involving species and their natural environment. Partners of the project: Partners will provide the main support to the Arca de los Sapos Initiative. Diverse cooperation organizations


with common interests will benefit because this initiative will be an effective mechanism to help them fulfill their mission and objectives. These organizations will be interested in identifying new conservation goals and then decide the orientation of their conservation efforts. Supporting private companies will obtain direct benefits derived from an improved environmental marketing. They will demonstrate their willingness to protect natural resources and strengthen their image which will have a positive impact in the commercialization of their products.

Support conservation of the Ecuadorian Amphibians Recent evaluations on the conservation status of the amphibians in Ecuador indicate that more than 150 species (31%) are facing high extinction risk. Centro Jambatu is developing a Network of Strategic Partners to rescue those threatened species. For more information contact us: Luis A. Coloma, Ph.D. Project Director Mar铆a Dolores Guarderas, Economist Coordination Centro Jambatu de Investigaci贸n y Conservaci贸n de Anfibios Jambatu Fundaci贸n Otonga Giovanni Farina 566 y Baltra, San Rafael


Quito, Ecuador Telf: 593-2-2869688 Celular: 09-710-1626 E-mail: centrojambatu@otonga.org 漏 Fundaci贸n Otonga 2011

How to cite this document: Coloma, L. A. 2011. Strategic plan for the conservation of the Ecuadorian amphibians, Arca de los Sapos, Executive Summary. Centro Jambatu, Fundaci贸n Otonga, Quito Ecuador.

STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE ECUADORIAN AMPHIBIANS IN EXTINCTION RISK  

ARCA DE LOS SAPOS. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY