The Harlequin Frog in the Amazon rainforest is a very vulnerable species, but the Atelopus Survival Institute, a coalition of scientists from 57 organizations has been formed to help save them.
In Central America, the native biodiversity is astonishing. Home to hundreds of thousands of species of different flora and fauna, Central America is astonishingly beautiful in part due to its unique ecosystem(s). However, as the years carry on, there are serious concerns to be had about the continuation of this area’s beauty.
Deforestation has become a serious problem as the human population has boomed, and as such, agriculture has as well to keep up with the demand for food. This has led to thousands of hectares of the Amazon rainforest being cut down, with the area on the verge of collapsing from a carbon sink to a carbon producer.
Some of the species of the area are near extinction, if not already extinct. One of these species is the Atelopus, more commonly known as the Harlequin Frog. These amphibians are particularly vulnerable to habitat loss as well as the result of temperature increases, as they have no way to regulate their own body temperature. On top of this, the crisis of the species is the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, which has devastated populations. However, there is a reason for hope as a group of scientists from 57 different organizations hailing from 15 different countries has come together to protect and conserve these delicate critters.
Human-based devastation of our environment has been proven time and time again, and it’s usually other animals who are the disproportionately affected group. We tend not to think of the destruction of our own species’ environment, that is, unless it’s our own that is affected. It, unfortunately, has meant worldwide hundreds of species have gone extinct by our hand, with thousands of more teetering on the edge of oblivion.
As a result of habitat destruction in Central America, two threats are emerging indirectly by our choices. Those are increasing temperatures which some suggest is benefitting the growth of Bd. For those more worried about the effects on humans, there is ample evidence that indicates that frogs, along with other amphibians, work to keep mosquito populations down. Malaria has already been a public health crisis in the region for decades now. Still, some reports say that due to the decline of these frogs, the percentage per 1,000 people infected with malaria is as high as 90%, up from 70%.
There is significant work to be done in the area, which is still a barely known issue due to decades of lack of visibility, and in mainstream culture, frogs are still seen as gross, slimy, or potentially poisonous. This has meant that attention has not been given to them nearly the same as other creatures like birds, bears, or other mammals.
Awareness is therefore a major part of the new strategy that the Atelopus Survival Institute (ASI) employs to push governments and other powerful organizations to save the frogs. The ASI is a group of scientists and researchers from 15 different countries, on behalf of 57 organizations dedicated to furthering research into protective measures, promoting awareness campaigns, and reintroducing individuals into the wild to help bring back the numbers of the species. The task force brings together many different professionals from very different backgrounds to seriously address this issue head-on, as not only are frogs critically affected, but we are as well.
It would seem that the situation is dire, and that’s because it is. However, it’s important to know that the belief that a situation is hopeless actually contributes to the exasperation of the problem. Belief isn’t everything, though, and action needs to come with it to address real problems seriously.
Through enough research and pressure being put on those who have the ability to will change, these problems can be solved. ASI is an example of an advocacy organization doing what is absolutely necessary to preserve the lives of these beautiful animals. And if a moral argument doesn’t sway you, the continued existence of our own species depends on it.