Titicaca Water Frog Research
To assess the threats and conservation status of Titicaca water frogs in Bolivia
The Critically Endangered Titicaca water frog, Telmatobius coleus, is endemic to the Lake Titicaca Basin in the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru, and it is among the most threatened species of amphibians in the world. A recent evaluation of the conservation status of Bolivian amphibians also concluded that Telmatobius coleus is the most threatened amphibian species in Bolivia. The reason is an observed serious population decline, estimated to be >80% over the last three generations, due to over-exploitation (frog leg consumption, by-catch in fishing nets), habitat degradation (water pollution, destruction of breeding grounds, i.e. tule reed beds), and the introduction of invasive, non-native fish species to Lake Titicaca (mainly trout that prey on tadpoles and adults). Of the 21 conservation actions listed, only two are in place (legislation development and implementation), whereas all others still need to be initiated.
A further potential threat to the survival of the Titicaca water frog looming on the horizon is the amphibian chytrid fungus (the genus Telmatobius is known to be susceptible to the disease) which probably has played a major role in amphibian die-offs in many areas.
A pilot study will establish baseline data required to assess the magnitude of current threats to the Titicaca water frog and to develop appropriate conservation strategies and action on the Bolivian portion of Lake Titicaca. Conservation measures will be conducted subsequently.
The programme has four main objectives:
- To produce a synthesis of current Titicaca water frog commercial, research, and conservation projects in Bolivia, and to evaluate the potential for collaboration with the existing projects to obtain synergetic effects.
- To assess the magnitude of mortality rates as well as local and seasonal variation therein due to by-catch in fishing nets and direct capture by local people through semi-structured interviews of at least 80 fishermen (such interviews were conducted successfully by Armonía to asses by-catch rates for the Titicaca Grebe) and through a survey of local markets where frogs are being sold.
- To examine whether the amphibian chytrid fungus has reached Lake Titicaca by conducting chytrid fungus swabbing on up to 50 individuals in the wild.
- To determine priority areas for conservation action to protect breeding grounds through a GIS-based evaluation of the extension of tule reed beds and inter-annual fluctuations therein (2005-2007) based on satellite images, including batimetric mapping using naval charts.
After the pilot project is finished, a further project will follow and base on the results of the first project. The main goal of the following project is the conservation of the Titicaca water frog and other endemic species of Lake Titicaca. This project contains also in situ management, research and additionally ex situ breeding and release to the wild, benefit sharing, environmental education and sustainable development.
WAZA Conservation Project 08021 is implemented by Stiftung Artenschutz and Asociación Armonía (section of BirdLife International), Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, with the support of Thrigby Conservation Fund (Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens und AmazonaZOO), Zoo Salzburg, Blue Planet Aquarium, and Natuurpunt.
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