SOURCE: Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo

November 25, 2015 13:56 ET

Critically Endangered Lake Titicaca Frogs Arrive at Denver Zoo

Arrival Continues Zoo's Conservation Efforts for Neglected Species

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - November 25, 2015) - Denver Zoo is thrilled to announce the arrival of 20 Lake Titicaca frogs, making the Zoo the only institution in the northern hemisphere to currently house the critically endangered species. The frogs arrived on Wednesday, November 18, from the Huachipa Zoo in Lima, Peru. They are all doing well and will spend the next three months behind the scenes during a mandatory quarantine period before guests can see them at the Zoo's Tropical Discovery exhibit. Denver Zoo staff will study their behavior and ultimately look to increase their numbers in the latest of many conservation efforts for the species.

"Denver Zoo has been working with our Peruvian and Bolivia partners to conserve the Lake Titicaca frogs since 2007 and is excited to bring these individuals to Denver. It has been over 40 years since a Lake Titicaca frog has been in the United States, and Denver Zoo is proud to help people in the U.S. connect with this critically endangered species. We hope to raise awareness of the plight of these amphibians while also gaining important insight into the care of this species," says Senior Vice President for Animal Care and Conservation Brian Aucone.

The Lake Titicaca frog, the world's largest aquatic frog, lives only in and near its namesake lake. Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake, lying about 12,500 feet above sea level and straddling the Peruvian and Bolivian border. The frogs can grow up to 20 inches long and weigh more than 2 pounds. The species' saggy, seemingly excessive, skin absorbs oxygen, allowing them to remain submerged indefinitely while still breathing through their skin.

The Zoo's new frogs hatched as tadpoles in March at Huachipa Zoo. Their parents were the offspring of wild-born frogs that were confiscated by authorities on their way to a market for consumption purposes. Although illegal, local Peruvians and Bolivians routinely harvest the frogs for shake-like drinks that they believe will enhance virility, among other benefits. This, along with disease, pollution and the introduction of invasive species, are main reasons the species faces extinction. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Lake Titicaca frog's population has declined 80 percent over the last three generations and is now classified as "critically endangered."

While there is much conservation effort in Peru, there is little work being done on amphibians of the high Andes, which makes this project so important. Denver Zoo, working with local governments, leads conservation efforts in support of the frogs, such as conducting research and raising awareness about them, while also empowering local communities to prevent their extinction. Educators teach school children about the importance of the species and support local communities in their efforts to earn a living from the frog through handicraft sales and tourism.

Due to these efforts, the Lake Titicaca frog has recently transformed into a symbol of pride for the people of Puno, the largest Peruvian city that borders the lake. In 2012, the Regional Government of Puno issued an ordinance declaring the frog a tourist attraction in the Lake Titicaca region.

About Denver Zoo: Denver Zoo is the Rocky Mountain region's premiere resource for informal scientific education, serving two million people annually. Home to over 4,300 animals representing more than 600 species, the Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which assures the highest standards of animal care.

A leader in green action, Denver Zoo is the greenest zoo in the country and is dedicated to ensuring the safety of the environment in support of all species by attaining the highest environmental standards. Since 1996, Denver Zoo has participated in about 600 animal conservation projects in 62 countries on all seven continents.

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