miércoles, 9 de diciembre de 2009

good news and bad news

Our last time in Titicaca lake we went with Patricia and Teresa our two herpetologist colleagues that were a great support for our work and they enjoyed the snorkel in the lake looking for the Titicaca lake frog Telmatobius culeus. Unfortunately this time our team from the local community could not join us in the snorkel but they were always supporting us from the boat next to us.
This time we did several diurnal and nocturnal transects, good news and bad news…

First day in one diurnal transect we found several individuals in the lake, and some of them in amplexus, that means that they are breeding this season, unfortunately we could not find the eggs, probably we need to look for more carefully. During the night was very cold but also very interesting because we found several individuals and a big female that was the biggest one that I saw until now. Also we found very interesting data that we will publish soon in some scientific papers.

The second day it was amazing one day with several impressions, first the unbelievable landscape and underwater view, but followed by alarming findings that pushed down our happiness. Our first individual we found in that transect was a juvenile, after some pictures we realized that was dead in the bottom of the lake, we collected this one, second individual, also a dead one, but this time bigger, third one also a big dead frog almost decomposed. After about 50 minutes we found 18 dead frogs of different size, decomposing states and just four frogs that were ok, some of our last individuals that we found I thought it was a dead individual because like you can see in the picture the left leg it was with a very big open wound where you can see the bone of the toes. We collected this individual and it seems that is not a mechanical wound seems to be something that is eating the skin and flesh from outside, we also found a lot of leeches in the body that we took out, we wanted to take alive this individual but unfortunately this individual died.

That night we had a lot of rain and we went out to record the frogs calling and we obtained some good recordings that soon will be published and also we found some other species of frogs on the land that we took chytrid samples to see what is happening in this area. Next day the water it was very cold and also with no too much visibility and it was no possible to carry out our transects, so we dedicated this day to teach our new members of the team how to snorkel and to develop the transects.
After those days in the lake, now we come back to the city with a lot questions and worried about the situation, because we never saw that number of dead animals, maximum we found before were 5, but also can be that now we are using a different method or just it is the decomposition time in the area is very long, but also if this is the situation, to find to many individuals like we found means that something is happening there, what it is?? We don’t know yet, we don't want to give answers yet, but we need to do more research and for that we will need more support from people and institutions, we are very enthusiastic because more people are in our team and with Patricia and Teresa working with us is a big difference that will improve the work.

We also hope that soon we will publish our findings that can be available to more people and we will keep updating this blog and soon the new website of the project.

I would like to thank all of you people that are emailing me and giving some words of support, this really help us to keep working in this project even that we know that is a very hard work.
Also the big support from the local community that always is supporting us and now we are planning several things with them to protect the species and also to give them and option to improve their live quality protecting the species.
Thank you very much.

sábado, 5 de diciembre de 2009

Our adventure in Ayopaya

This time we went to an unknown area of the department of Cochabamba, Ayopaya province, an area that was not explored yet, especially amphibians and reptiles. We went to the dry valleys and Puna with some patches of cloud forest. Although we did not find many amphibians, we found interesting aspects. The forest structure of the area is very interesting because you can find in one slope a mountain cloud forest and in the other slope in the same valley an interandean dry forest; this situation can be reflected in a composition of animals that belongs to a completely different ecosystem groups. Unfortunately we could not find many species of frogs due to the rainy season that did not start yet, a very important factor in this kind of dry forest.

here we can see the mountain dry valleys of the area

Our trip was an adventure, due to the bad maintenance of the roads,  first we found some problems on the road, some very slippery and muddy areas where we had to push the car and some others that we had to go out from the car to see if we had enough space for a car. We were traveling with our colleagues researchers that are working with triatomine insects that are responsible of chagas disease, also with the nocturnal butterflies of the group saturnidae and botanists. Once in the area we worked in different locations and with the instructions of the villagers we got lost more than once trying to find some places. The structure of the amphibian fauna was very similar to the dry valleys of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Tarija, but we think that in the wet side can be very interesting to work, but unfortunately we could not arrive. 

An interesting thing that we found was that the area is dedicated to mining of different resources. We saw a gold mining company,  very close to a conjunction of two streams, one from the mines and other without intervention. At first impression the difference was completely clear. One completely transparent and the other completely dirty and when those streams got together downriver we could not find any invertebrate or vertebrate aquatic life. The villagers told us that the mine company takes the rocks to the city and they work there with that. But could be interesting to see if this really happen because the pollution in the area it was very strong and maybe they are just discarding the chemicals in the stream and some of those chemicals can be mercury, a heavy metal that can be lethal for the wildlife and human populations that live downriver.

After the work in the area we gave some talks about the groups that we were working with and we explained the school kids about amphibians, conservation and the importance of amphibians for the ecosystem and for them.

Going back to the city it was another adventure because we found that the road was blocked by landslides so we had to go back and to take the long way that was not so nice to drive there, very narrow roads and with the first rains and foggy weather we had to drive very slowly and finally our brakes did not work and we had to drive about 130 km very slowly in a very strong rain.
After all this adventure now we are very excited to try to go back to the area and to work in the mountain cloud forest that we saw from the distance, now we need to organize maybe an long term expedition to see what kind of herpetofauna we can find.

sábado, 7 de noviembre de 2009

frog meat and intelligence potion

Just a couple of days after our last update in the blog we had news about Telmatobius. We received a call from our colleague herpetologist telling us that somebody was selling frogs in the local market here in Cochabamba city, that the species was Telmatobius culeus a critically endangered species (http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/57334/0). 
It is amazing how easy is to have this kind of situations where a critically endangered species that have to be protected now you can find in a local market and buy alive or dead like medicine or that can help you with you capacity to learn….


This man told that he is from Peru and if we want more frogs we can ask him (gave us the cell phone) and he can provide us the size we want and the species we want because he knows some other places with frogs in Peru… the interesting thing is that in our study area the local community told us that Peruvians go to those communities and buy the frogs for just a couple of bolivianos (local money) and they take entire buckets, sometimes full with frogs. 

It is important to try stop this situation before they expand this, because it is not a traditional use of the species, this use it was recently introduced in the country and now it is in Cochabamba city, about at least 12 hours from Titicaca lake, so it is not a occasional activity like it says in this article http://www.la-razon.com/Versiones/20090705_006779/nota_277_839363.htm .
Now we have another thing to be aware and also we need to start working closely with the government, local authorities and media to try to protect the species. (we want to thank Oliver Quinteros that provided the pictures)

viernes, 6 de noviembre de 2009

Hope for the frogs

Bolivian herpetologist at the X congreso Argentino de Herpetologia

Recently a lot of new things happened, first we went to X Congreso Argentino de Herpetologia in Jujuy Argentina, and we presented our 2 works, one the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative and the second our captive breeding project. Also we found the same pattern that in Bolivia that several populations of Telmatobius in Argentina are not present anymore. A bad new, now the Cytrid fungus is almost in all the Bolivian Andes and now we need to do more research to see what is really happening with the species present in the area, because nothing is known about the impact that is having this phenomena.

After the meeting in Argentina we had several new contacts and now there are people and institutions that want to support the initiative and to try to act now to save the high Andean species of frogs, specially the Telmatobius genus. We really hope to obtain good results and that more conservationist can join to this work taking out the personal interests and to work for the Bolivian frogs.

Field work in Tarija, looking for amphibians, water quality testing and desinfecting equipment 

After the meeting in Argentina we came back to Bolivia and did some fieldwork in Tarija Department; with the support of the SERNAP and the parkguards of the protected area we went back to some localities to try to find some populations of Telmatobius that we found in 2000, 2001 and 2004. It was great, because we worked closelly with the parkguards in the field work teaching them about the amphibian situation and also about amphibian work. We found the species in several water bodies and several of them; the only strange thing was that we found just tadpoles, just in one stream we found adults. We don’t know exactly the reasons for that, but the tadpoles we found looks like in good conditions and with the vocal structures complete that means possibly that the fungus is not present yet in the area.

Sharing information and education workshops in local communities

We decided to take some of them to our captive facilities to try to breed the species and now we have some tadpoles that can help the species just in case the fungus arrives to the area that is just time to wait for that. Now that the fungus is almost everywhere we need to be careful in our fieldwork with biosecurity procedures, that almost nothing or nobody is doing anything.

High Andean Bolivian frogs are under a presure and specially these last years, a lot of things are needed to protect them, but there is also hope and now after the new events when more people and institutions are interested to work with the conservation of the species and try to save them. We just hope all this will go for a good way because here are the frogs in between.

a tadpole of our fieldwork that is going frog

jueves, 29 de octubre de 2009

Declining populations???

This time we went to the mountain cloud forest of Cochabamba department, one in the new road Cochabamba Santa Cruz and another near the ruins of Incallajta that once was one of the largest forts in Bolivia. we focused our work looking for aquatic species of the genus Telmatobius, unfortunately in both places we did not find any individual or tadpole; where previously the species Telmatobius yuracare, Telmatobius hintoni and Telmatobius espadai were very abundant, now there are no frogs... we just found individuals of other species that are not too associated to water like Gastrotheca, Pristimantis Psychrophynella and Hypsiboas. Some of them very abundant like Psychrophynella that was calling during almost all the day and everywhere.


It is very worrying that we are finding a pattern not just in those places also in other places we went like in Chuquisaca department and Potosi, were previous places with big populations of amphibians of the genus Telmatobius, but now those species are not anymore present. We also are finding some places like in the dry valleys of Cochabamba were T. hintoni was very common, now we are finding just some tadpoles and very few adults. This situation can be a temporal fluctuation but also can be a possible declining of these populations that in some cases the species are restricted just a small areas or even just some streams or rivers, and if those populations disappear, all the species is extinct. We sincerely hope that is just a fluctuation of the population size, but we are finding some indications that something else is happening and also with the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (BD) recently reported in Bolivia, we think that we need to act now if we don't want to lose those species.

We also are working with captive breeding of some species that are common that we are using like model species and we are finding very interesting data and we were able to reproduce the species until tadpoles, now we are including our work to other species and at the moment we are learning lot things from that. Our plan is to start in a near future with other species that need the help and that are under a high risk to disappear, we hope that we will find some other solutions and work closely with the local communities like we are doing now to reduce the other threats, but unfortunately for now there is nothing we can do against the BD just to take out some individuals from the wild and to start ex-situ programs. We think it is very important to start to show the conservationists and the government the emergency to act now in the conservation of this group of vertebrates that more than one third of the species are threatened and under risk of disappear.

domingo, 20 de septiembre de 2009

Titicaca Frog problems

For second and third time we went to Titicaca Lake to monitor the species. This time we took some help. Ineke and Mariana that were a great support during the field and helping us in the fieldwork. with these trips we learned a lot about the best ways to study and monitor Telmatobius, also we found great new information about the species during our day and nigth transects.

At the same time we are finding very alarming information about the situation of the species and the area. we found again dead individuals in the area, several sick frogs and a deformed frog with extra limbs. at the moment we are trying to understand what is happening with the species doing some research and postmortem analyzis with the dead individuals. we found a lot ecto and endoparasites that probably have an effect in the very skiny individuals. also we are finding new information about polution in the area that together with other factors can be affecting the population health.

But not everything is lost, now we have new help from the local people and now Nelson our new integrant of the team is learning to to snorkel and is helping us to monitor the frogs in the area, this very enthusiastic young new member is helping us to work in the area and also his family that is providing a lot data in the area.

in one of our nocturnal transects snorkeling in the lake (very very cold) we found amazing information about the natural history that will be published in a near future. after just a couple of times working snorkeling in the lake we are finding a lot data that can help us to understand this amazing and critically endangered frog.

miércoles, 1 de abril de 2009

Our first snorkel in the lake

We went to Titicaca Lake to test the new wetsuit for the monitoring program of the populations of the Titicaca Water Frog Telamtobius culeus, we worked with the local community that supported us in the lake with the boat and the time they worked with us. The temperature of the water was good, not too cold and the underwater view was amazing, probably could be a very interesting way to work with one kind of tourism in the lake (snorkeling in the lake to see the Titicaca Water Frog). this kind of activities can help the local communities to have a extra income and at the same time can help to protect this critically endangered species of frog.This day we had two times in the lake, the first one in the morning about 3 hours when the weather was very calm and sunny that was ideal to snorkel with the company of don Hilario, after a couple of minutes we were able to see some species of fish, and also among the vegetation we found the aquatic frog resting in the bottom of the lake at about 1 meter deep, those frogs were very well camouflaged with the substrate and some of them with the vegetation. We found in this time several individuals of frogs and fortunately not like before, this time we did not find dead animals, all the individuals we found this time were in very good conditions. We want to thanks Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, rufford Small Grants, Kennet Lundin and Gerardo Garcia for the support in some of the equipment used in this project and teir support to develope this conservation initiative.
Following I show you some of the pictures of this amazing adventure:

Testing how deep can we go in the lake

Catching one frog among the vegetation

The frog man in the lake

In the afternoon we went with more people to snorkel in the lake, most of them kids and with Gustavo, our local partner that is taking data about the frogs that are captured in the fish nets everyday. Soon he will join us to monitor the population of this frog with the wetsuits. At this time in the afternoon we had not so good weather and the light was not so good to find the frogs but it was very interesting too. We found some other things like different species of fish and also our friends the leeches that we thought was not easy to find one, but this one found us he he. After the exploration in the lake we showed the species we found to the kids and they were very exited about all this new information, and just to see somebody swimming in this very cold water was exiting for them

kids learning about the Titicaca water frog

leeches in the lake that want to go with us

sunset in the lake

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