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Costa Rica’s Holdridge Toad Declared Extinct

The Holdridge’s toad is a small, black, deaf and mute toad that lived in Heredia’s Chompipe Mountain Range. After searching for the species with no luck, Barcelona’s Red List of Endangered Species, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the small toad extinct from the globe.

Holdridge’s toad, whose scientific name is Incilius holdridgei, used to be a very prevalent toad in Costa Rica’s Heredia highlands.”Holdridge’s toad was a species endemic to the Central Mountain Range – at an average altitude of 2,270 meters (7,448 feet) above sea level,” Alan Pounds, renowned herpetologist for the Puntarenas Tropical Science Center, said. The species had only been seen before on Costa Rica Land, and since it has not been seen here since 1986, it was finally declared extinct.

According to Gerardo Chaves, scientist for the University of Costa Rica and coauthor of a national report that helped declare the species extinct, Holdridge’s toad was known for its rugged, bumpy skin, easily identified by its bright orange and black markings. “This frog was rather small and measured five centimeters in length, about three centimeters less than another other species of common toad,” Chaves explained.

In addition, they were deaf and mute, a very strange trait among frogs. Unlike most species, they did not communicate through noise, which means that they emitted no call or song. According to experts, this only makes sense in the species developed in an area with so much noise that other forms of communication were necessary. Mysteriously, the Chompipe Mountain environment is not loud, and is the only area where these toads were ever found.

Chaves added that the toad was very easy to spot during its April/May mating season – for the rest of the year, it was nearly impossible to find. “This species had a very interesting behavior. During mating season the frogs would meet up near the main street that goes toward Chompipe Mountain. There they formed hundreds of very impressive looking groups. There were many male toads waiting for their females… just imagine, [at that time] there were so many of them that the Holdridge’s toads would grab onto other species to [mate] with them.” Unfortunately however, this mating frenzy has not been witnessed since before 1986, more than 22 years ago.

Costa Rican scientists and experts from the IUCN believe that habitat reduction and climate change are the principal factors responsible for the species’ extinction. Most specifically, a chytrid fungus has been attacking Central America’s frog species, which essentially suffocates frogs with its growth. Frog populations have dwindled dangerously, and many species have all but disappeared from Costa Rica’s rain forests. Among them, the harlequin toad and the golden toad, two species now believed to be extinct.

Holdridge’s toad was put on the Red List of Endangered Species in 2006, but scientists held out hope for its rediscovery. Many teams headed out into the field to look for it, though obviously, none was successful. “From a biological point of view, the fact that a species goes extinct is not a strange thought, it’s almost a law of nature. That said, as a person and scientist in the field, one feels a tremendous impotence when he sees such an abundant species disappear before his eyes. You feel really bad,” Chaves concluded.

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Declining Shark Populations of Concern in Costa Rica

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Special to A.M. Costa Rica
http://www.amcostarica.com

Sharks are disappearing from the world’s oceans. The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are taken by accident each year.

Now, the global status of large sharks has been assessed by the World Conservation Union, which is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, scientific-based information source on the threat status of plants and animals.

“As a result of high and mostly unrestricted fishing pressure, many sharks are now considered to be at risk of extinction,” explained Julia Baum, a member of the union’s Shark Specialist Group

“Of particular concern is the scalloped hammerhead shark, an iconic coastal species, which will be listed on the 2008 IUCN Red List as globally endangered due to overfishing and high demand for its valuable fins in the shark fin trade,” added Ms. Baum, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Ms. Baum pointed out that fishing for sharks in international waters is unrestricted, and she supports a recently adopted United Nations resolution calling for immediate shark catch limits as well as a meaningful ban on shark finning, the practice of removing only a shark’s fins and dumping the still live but now helpless shark into the ocean to die.

Costa Rica is a major supplier to the international shark fin trade.

Research at Canada’s Dalhousie University over the past five years, conducted by Ms. Baum and the late Ransom Myers, demonstrated the magnitude of shark declines in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. All species the team looked at had declined by over 50 per cent since the early 1970s. For many large coastal shark species, the declines were much greater: tiger, scalloped hammerhead, bull and dusky shark populations have all plummeted by more than 95 per cent.

A commercial fish factory vessel was boarded this month by Costa Rican officials because they said it was involved in illegal fishing in the protected area of Isla del Coco. However, investigators had to let the 25-person crew go because there was uncertainty in the law regarding this kind of activity. The crew was seeking tuna but sharks, including hammerheads for which the waters around the island are famous are likely victims, too.

The issue still is being discussed in prosecutorial circles.

Shark Finning in Costa Rica (Warning: This video is disturbing)

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