Ecotourism to preserve amphibians

20 July 2011 | News story

Conservation International`s (CI) amphibian project in the Chocó of Colombia is supported by SOS and protects a newly discovered and as-yet unnamed toad with red eyes, using ecotourism as an effective conservation method.

Facilities in the Chocó of Colombia will house a forest guard for a newly created reserve enabling its protection and management, and allowing the development of ecotourism to generate revenue that will sustain the protection of the hottest of hotspots, home to unique amphibians that include several species of glass frogs and the enigmatic red-eyed toad that continues to baffle scientists with regard to its identity.

Amphibians are the most threatened group vertrebrates, with over 30 per cent threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and a fungus that causes chytridomycosis — an infectious disease — among others.

Amphibians provide many important services to humans such as controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops and helping to maintain healthy freshwater systems. The chemicals in amphibian skins have also been important in helping to create new drugs with the potential to save lives, including a painkiller 200 times more potent than morphine.

"Ecotourism is one approach to conservation that can work when implemented well. Our partners in Colombia (ProAves) are tapping into the birdwatching market, successfully combining forest protection with ecotourism to create a network of protected areas in Colombia that are supported through funds generated by ecotourism", says project leader Robin Moore from Conservation International (CI).