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Thursday, November 21

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Thursday, January 21

It’s a brand-new year and while 2016 doesn’t have any grand openings or entire collection-sized moves coming up, it doesn’t mean things have exactly slowed down in Herpetology.
Aside from our usual day-to-day routine of cleaning animal exhibits and maintaining our off-exhibit collections, the Herpetology staff are involved in a number of off-site conservation programs. These range from helping our state authorities to assess the health of our hellbender populations to helping establish breeding and educational programs for beaded lizards in Guatemala.

For example, next week I am winging my way down to Bolivia to help establish a new facility for breeding the critically endangered Lake Titicaca frog (Telmatobius culeus). These unique frogs are only found in Lake Titicaca, which spans the border between Bolivia and Peru and ranks as one of the world’s highest lakes with an elevation of nearly 13,000 feet (altitude sickness here I come)! For a little perspective, the highest peak in Georgia (Brasstown Bald) is just shy of 5,000 feet. The frogs are completely aquatic and don’t even have to come to the surface to breathe, instead absorbing oxygen through their skin.

Unfortunately, they are also extremely sensitive, and pollution of the lake has become one of the major threats to this species with large die-offs recorded as recently as this past spring. They are also collected in large numbers and consumed by humans.

To help create a stop-gap for these frogs, institutions both in Peru and Bolivia are developing ex situ (off site) captive assurance colonies. These colonies will allow the species to keep going until threats to them in the wild are mitigated, at which point captive born offspring may be able to return to their natural home.

Thankfully, the governments of these countries and a number of international partners are working together in efforts to save these unique animals.

I’m very proud to have been given this opportunity to help the Lake Titicaca frog and am excited to report back with more details of how things are going. Until then, if you would like to learn more about efforts to help Lake Titicaca frogs in Bolivia, please go to http://bolivianamphibianinitiative.org.
Robert Hill
Assistant Curator of Herpetology

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